A Big Number

There is good news for storage pros -- the amount of data being created is growing faster than expected. The bad news for IT departments -- the growth of data is even faster than expected.

May 20, 2009

3 Min Read
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For storage professionals, the number released this week by EMC and research firm IDC should provide a bit of reassurance and job security. That number is 3,892,179,868,480,350,000,000, and what it represents is the number of new digital information bits created in 2008, according to John Gantz, chief research officer for IDC.

That's 487 billion gigabytes or, for the non-technically inclined, it is the equivalent of 237 billion fully-loaded Amazon Kindle wireless reading devices or 4.8 quadrillion online bank transactions or 3 quadrillion Twitter feeds or 162 trillion digital photos or 30 billion fully-loaded Apple iPod Touches or 19 billion fully-loaded Blu-ray DVDs.

As part of its ongoing Digital Universe research, IDC says the amount of data created is doubling in size every 18 months. That means five times as much information will be created in 2012 as was created last year. To me, that means becoming a storage experts might be a good career move. Even with lots of new and sophisticated software and systems, there will continue to be a growing need for people to manage that data and the storage systems that hold it all.

For IT departments, it means they will have to continue to make large purchases of storage capacity and look for ways to use it more efficiently. While most businesses and IT departments are very conservative when it comes to their storage infrastructures and they way they handle data, economic pressures may force them to move more quickly to introduce new technologies to cut back on the amount of storage capacity they need. That should keep the market for data reduction products like deduplication and compression growing at a fast pace. The growth of virtualization also means that companies will be creating more virtual machines that will be generating and using more data, putting more pressure on storage systems. It also should increase interest in storage automation systems, although they can never replace people when it comes to making sure data is where it is suppose to be and available to those who need it.

A few other tidbits from the report: Over the next four years, 600 million more people will become Internet users and nearly two-thirds of all Internet users will use mobile devices at least some of the time. There will be huge growth in non-traditional IT devices such as wireless meters, automobile navigation systems, industrial machines, RFID readers, and intelligent sensor controllers and interactions between people via email, messaging, social networks and other means. Security will become even more important as more information like medical records, credit card and social security numbers, and legal documents are stored electronically. New regulations and legal requirements will put pressure on companies to store and make accessible even more data, while also protecting it from prying eyes and computers.

For a company like EMC, which makes its money providing systems that store and manage information, these kinds of stats are like manna from heaven. If true, it means they are right in the middle of the right market at the right time. It also helps to explain why there are so many vendors competing for a piece of the storage market and why so many other tech companies are eyeing the storage market with envy. With so many other tech markets flat or shrinking, a storage market that appears to have nothing but growth ahead of it has to be very appealing.

The bottom line -- the storage industry ain't a bad place to be.

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