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The Insane Growth of the Mobile Cloud: Big Data

Zetta Yourself In, Because We're Going to Talk About A Yotta Storage

Big Data used to be confined to a few big problems being worked on by small numbers of people-meteorology, epidemiology, nuclear bomb simulations, other scientific applications.

Now a combination of ubiquitous sensors, continuous surveillance, and proliferating smart devices has brought Big Data into the realm of innumerable small problems being requested by very large numbers of people.

Never mind the 600 millions of MicroSkype users and Facebook friends; think of 4 billion handhelds all streaming Sponge Bob or the latest Xollywood flicks.

I just posted my observations on a very small aspect Big Data growth-the scene in the Philippine. Now I'd like to address the global scope of Big Data.

A Boatload, in Layman's Terms
On this topic, I recently heard of Gartner figures that estimate the world will need 1.2 zettabytes of remote storage by the year 2020.

That's 1.2 trillion gigabytes, or 1.2 billion terabytes. At current prices of about 8 cents a gigabyte that's about $100 billion USD in storage, plus the costs to buy, house, and cool the processing power needed to support it.

(Given the continuous drop in storage prices, that number could be half this amount by next week and only 10% of it by 2020.)

Imagine slightly more than half the people of the world having a handheld device. Imagine, then, 4 billion devices, and imagine each user wanting 100 gigabytes of storage. Imagine 400 billion gigabytes.

That 400 billion gigabytes is equal to 400 exabytes. Heck, we're already one-third of the way to the 1.2-zettabyte level!

Hmmm...
So a zettabyte is a big number, but maybe not that big a number.

A report from IDC in 2008 estimated a "digital universe" in the hundreds of exabytes at that time already-including all those BlueRay DVDs sitting around, as well as data that is transmitted but not necessarily re-stored (think of a YouTube video viewed by 1 million people who don't download it).

The IDC report also estimated that enterprise IT created only 5% of this digital footprint. Clearly, as I wrote in the lede of my other article, "the mobile web is on the verge of accelerating worldwide computing and bandwidth requirements to a degree unimaginable just a few years ago."

And I think Cloud Computing is the only way to tame this enormous data monster. Can we realistically expect to plan and deploy-and keep up-without Cloud's elasticity, fluidity, and metered delivery model?

What Shall We Name This Baby?
In any case, it may well be that we run out of names for these large-scale numbers in the lifetimes of some people alive today (if not the lifetimes of most of my readers). The current system ends at the yottabyte, just one magnitude higher than the vaunted zettabyte.

It's already very difficult for the slow ones amongst us (such as me) to keep these terms straight. So I think that soon enough we'll start expressing these massive amounts of information in either exponential or binary terms.

Instead of saying exabyte and zettabyte, maybe we'll say 18byte (as in 10 to the 18th power) and 21byte, or 60byte (as in 2 to the 60th power) and 70byte.

Does anyone have a better, more poetic idea than this? I hope so.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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