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President Obama’s Inauguration Spikes Internet Traffic

ANN ARBOR – The Inaugural Ceremonies for President Barack Obama were greeted with cheers across the nation and a significant increase in Internet traffic. As the 44th President of the United States took his oath today shortly before noon, Merit Network’s backbone network experienced greater than a 40% increase in traffic to the external Internet as users across Michigan watched the proceedings via live web streams.

Traffic estimates during the Inauguration range from 15-18 gigabits per second of Internet traffic on Merit’s backbone network, which is significantly greater than the average of 7-10 gigabits during the same time period on an ordinary Tuesday.

“Historic events, like today’s Inauguration, are now experienced as much over the network as other media,” said Don Welch, president and chief executive officer for Merit Network. “Traffic on our network doubled during the President’s speech. I’m happy to report that although Merit Network was pushed, it continued to deliver.”

Merit Network traffic graph

Multicast connections, where multiple users are served by a single outgoing connection, provided Merit’s Members who are mulitcast-enabled with a more consistent rate of traffic, while campus networks that served unicast streaming traffic, with one stream for every single connection, experienced an exponential spike in traffic.

“Our Members who took advantage of multicast to view the Inauguration not only got great service, but didn’t contribute to the traffic surge,” Welch said.

“The impact of using multicast was significantly less for those Merit Members without a doubt,” added Bob Stovall, vice president of network operations and engineering.

From 11 a.m. ET to almost 2 p.m. ET, Merit’s three connection points in Chicago to Level3 and Cogent experienced significant traffic increases, as did Merit’s connection to Level3 in Detroit. In aggregate, Merit currently has 4 gigiabit commodity connections in Detroit and Chicago and is in the process of upgrading to a 10 gigabit commodity service. Daily traffic summary graphs below display connection points in Chicago and Detroit.

Network traffic graphs

“I’m not surprised by the increased demand for this event,” Stovall said. “This is why we have designed Merit’s backbone network to have multiple routes in diverse locations to accomodate increased demand. Merit’s network is currently being provisioned to 10 gigabit service across our backbone. Since our network is facilities-based, we can upgrade our connections when necessary as our Members’ needs change.”

During today’s Inauguration, Merit’s Internet2 traffic averaged almost 3 gigabits per second, with a peak of almost 4 gigabits just after noon. Merit Network has two 10 gigabit connections to Internet2.

Network traffic graphs

Thanks to various media outlets, including C-SPAN, CNN, and others, multicasting and unicasting the ceremonies from Washington D.C. to the world, campus and organizational networks connected to Merit’s backbone experienced similar traffic increases.

January 20, 2009 was a historic day for America and for the Internet.