The Apple – WoW Effect

The past few weeks have been busy with pop culture releases.   Today we can measure pop culture not by the line at the record store for that new album, or the brave fans sleeping outside for front row seats for the next hot concert, but rather by network bandwidth traffic to and from locations across the internet.

Recently, we saw the release of Apple Inc.’s new iOS 7 software for the iPhone.   Arbor’s ASERT noticed that Apple released the update almost as fast as the popular websites that track Apple activity.  We recognized this by way of increased network traffic destined for Apple’s Akamai infrastructure.

Let’s look at this past week’s traffic for Akamai, to see what we can observe.  Notice that on Thursday, September 19th around noon GMT there is a sudden spike in traffic, reaching upward of five terabits per second (5Tb/s), where normally such traffic is peaking near three terabits per second (3Tb/s).   With Apple being an Akamai customer we can correlate this spike to Apple’s release times of iOS .  The graph below shows traffic for Akamai in the North American region.image001

Apple is not the only company making splashes in the Internet sea.   Blizzard, the company behind the World of Warcraft online game, released an anticipated patch to its customer base on September 10th in North America, and the European Union was able to update their environments closer to September 11th, where we see an additional increase.    The graph below shows Blizzard’s TCP port that WoW would use for much of it’s communication in North America.


We can also see from the graph, the traffic was nearly absent shortly before the launch of the update both in the US and EU, where Blizzard announced maintenance windows.   What Arbor finds surprising is that total web traffic in the EU increased significantly shortly after the release of the patch?   We have not identified any direct cause for this relationship and Arbor is going to watch this to see if the trend continues.   The graph below shows the EU general web port 80 traffic.


We thought these events over the last two weeks shows a mix of how society impacts the internet.  Kudos are due for the vendors involved in this for handling the capacity and scale needed to address this cultural behavior.  I’m sure the record stores and ticket booths of yesteryear could learn a few things from these providers.



Author’s note: Thank you to Mark Taylor for his contribution to this blog post

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