The recent release of Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system led to a flood of Internet traffic that has slowed parts of the Internet and registered as a seismic event in post-launch analytics, security vendor Blue Coat Systems has reported.
Analysis of aggregate data from Blue Coat customers’ security appliances showed that traffic to the Apple.com Web site had increased 265 per cent in the five days after the update was released to the Internet at large.
Where customers typically saw visits to Apple.com domains accounting for less than 4 per cent of their traffic, the average volume of Apple-related traffic jumped to 13 per cent of traffic and, on one case, 32 per cent of all Web traffic.
“While traffic from YouTube and other streaming video sites tend to be fairly predictable, the traffic spike from the iOS updates can be difficult to plan for,” Blue Coat director of product marketing Jonathan Andresen said in a statement.
“The key takeaway is that the Web has shifted to large files, like software updates and video downloads – that have the potential to significantly disrupt bandwidth consumption patterns.”
The release of iOS7 accompanied the release of Apple’s new iPhone 5s and 5c phones, which have used the lure of a fingerprint scanner and colourful design, respectively, to striate the market for iPhones for the first time.
Although the new fingerprint sensor was claimed to be hacked using a fake-fingerprint technique, iOS 7 patched more than 80 long-standing vulnerabilities and offered security professionals a range of security improvements.
However, the update has also introduced other issues, including lockscreen vulnerabilities that have driven the company to release not one but two patches in the subsequent week.
The steady stream of updates, combined with a natural user base in the hundreds of millions, not only increased the volume of Apple-related Web traffic but led to localised outages in areas of high iPhone concentration, such as universities, where campus WiFi networks were rendered nearly inaccessible due to the high volume of downloads.
Blue Coat and its rivals, such as Exinda Networks, have jumped on the event to promote the value of on-network caching of Internet content – which would have shifted the bottleneck to on-campus servers rather than choking university and corporate Internet connections with requests for iOS 7.
“If networks had prepared in advance for this event with a network control solution, connection problems could have been avoided altogether,” Exinda said in a statement.
“Lectures would not have been disrupted, office administration tools would not have faltered and students would have been able to access course materials and complete assignment on time. These massive spikes in traffic could have been easily mitigated by either blocking the iOS update or throttling it by setting intelligent policies or using caching to remediate the strain.”
With Windows 8.1 and Apple’s OS X ‘Mavericks’ 10.9 release both set to bow within weeks, the iOS 7 phenomenon is only the first in what could be a series of major Internet disruptions.