Google is now the second-largest carrier of Internet traffic, according to data released this week by Arbor Networks. But should corporate network managers care about this news?

Yes, says Arbor Networks Chief Scientist Craig Labovitz, who argues that savvy IT managers need to understand how macro Internet traffic trends will affect the design and management of their own network backbones.

“The way we think about the network is changing,” Labovitz says. “We’re going through a transition where the value of the network was about connectivity…the ability to reach thousands of people and tens of thousands of other Web sites. But now there’s a shift from connectivity to content. Increasingly, whether you’re a consumer or an enterprise, you care not about reaching thousands of different Web sites. You care about the 20 social networking, cloud vendor and partner sites that you do business with.”

The Arbor Networks’ data points to a future where Internet traffic consolidates on the networks of a handful of carriers and content providers – what Arbor calls “hyper giants.” 

Google now second-largest carrier of internet traffic“This will affect how enterprises plan their services…whether they host their own services or whether they use cloud vendors,” Labovitz says. “The enterprise needs to shift its thinking in terms of [service level agreements] and the way it measures, monitors and secures its networks. That all used to be focused on connectivity, but now it needs to be focused on content.”

Enterprise network managers need to focus more on the content and services they are delivering over the Internet, and less on Internet transport, Arbor recommends. “It’s no longer just enough to know your circuit is up,” Labovitz adds. “What enterprise users care about is the quality of service.”

In the last year, Google has risen from third to second place in Arbor’s list of the top 10 carriers of Internet traffic. All of the other companies on Arbor’s list are ISPs, rather than content providers.

Today, Google carries an average of 6.4% of all Internet traffic – a figure that has grown by more than one percentage point since January. Only one tier 1 provider – a wholesaler to other ISPs – carries more Internet traffic on its backbone network than Google does, and this wholesaler (Arbor declined to identify the provider) carries a lot of Google traffic, too.

The Arbor data shows that overall Internet volumes are increasing at a rate of 40% to 45% per year, and that Google is growing faster than that. Most of Google’s data is video from its popular YouTube site.

Arbor Networks conducts ongoing analysis of Internet traffic housed on the networks of 110 ISPs around the world.