Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Much Can We Byte Off?

If you can remember the opening of the original motorways you will probably picture a scene looking down onto a dual carriageway, was broadcast in black and white and showed the odd car. Today’s digital highway started slowly too with many referring its performance to a dirt track. Today’s motorways have more lanes but are full and traffic often grinds to a crawl. In contrast, the superhighway has expanded, increased its performance and now carries an unbelievable volume of traffic.
A new study that estimates the volume of digital traffic has found that for the first time, there's not enough storage space to hold it all.

The report, by technology research firm IDC, www.idc.com sought to measure the image, videos, e-mails, Web pages, instant messages, phone calls and other digital content traffic. The researchers determined that the world generated 161 billion gigabytes -- 161 exabytes -- of digital information last year. According to IDC that's like 12 stacks of books that each reach from the Earth to the Sun, or 3 million times the information in all the books ever written, according to IDC. You'd need more than 2 billion iPods on the market to get 161 exabytes.

The previous best estimate came from researchers at Berkeley, http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003 who in 2003 arrived at 5 exabytes, said at the time to be 37,000 Libraries of Congress. However unlike the IDC research, the Berkeley researchers only examined original data, not all the times things got copied.

Interestingly, the IDC research estimates that by 2010, about 70 percent of the world's digital data will be created by individuals. There certainly is a boom in video and community publishing and that the supply of data technically outstrips the supply of places to put it. IDC estimates that the world had 185 exabytes of storage available last year and will have 601 exabytes in 2010. But the amount of stuff generated is expected to jump from 161 exabytes last year to 988 exabytes (closing in on 1 zettabyte) in 2010.

For those who want to learn some new terms:
We are familiar with a gigabyte, as that is what most iPods hold – 250 songs. The next step is 1,000 GB which equals 1 terabyte, 1,000 terabytes equals 1 petabyte, 1,000 petabytes equals 1 exabyte and 1,000 exabytes equals1 zettabyte.