At EMC World 2009, the company announced the number 3,892,179,868,480,350,000,000, which, according to the new EMC-sponsored IDC study titled "As the Economy Contracts, the Digital Universe Expands," is the number of new digital information bits created in 2008. According to the study, as the economy deteriorated late last year the pace of digital information created and transmitted over the Internet, phone networks, and airwaves actually grew 3% faster than IDC's prior projection. Looking forward, the Digital Universe is expected to double in size every 18 months so that in 2012 five times as much digital information will be created as in 2008. This dynamic further validates the demand for tools and techniques (e.g. virtualization, deduplication and other data reduction technologies) geared specifically to managing more information with fewer resources.
While the pace of digital information growth continues to increase, IT budgets declined in 2008, leading to an even larger divide between the volume of information generated and the amount of IT management resources purchased and deployed. In addition, while the amount of "security intensive" information such as patient medical records and credit card and social security numbers constitutes some 30% of information created today, and number is expected to grow to 45% by the end of 2012. Similarly, "compliance-intensive" information (including employee email archives and financial records) that is subject to rules by regulating authorities and auditors will grow from today's 25% of the Digital Universe to 35% in 2012.
The EMC-sponsored IDC Digital Universe study, now in its third year, continues to chart the remarkable growth of digital information, which is expanding at very near incomprehensible rates. Much of this growth can be linked to the innovation of storage media vendors, who continue to create ever faster and more capacious hard drives, flash drives, optical disks and tape storage solutions.
But the full fledged commoditization of storage media has also played a significant role in this trend, allowing it to continue unabated even as the global economy ebbed lower than it has for a generation. The single gigabyte of consumer hard drive storage that would have been priced at around $9.00 in 2000 costs around $0.30 today, offering as clear a demonstration of the law of supply and demand as one might like.
However, there is a flip side of the easy, inexpensive storage that made possible technological tchotchkes including the iPod, the iPhone, digital cameras and camcorders, and netbooks of every size and hue: Even as it has become cheaper and easier to store digital information, managing that data is becoming pricier and harder. That is no big deal for consumers, many of whose homes contain enough randomly cluttered digital storage devices to house the Library of Congress.