Content: Big, beautiful and ready to sail

More data traveled through the electronic byways of the Internet in 2010 than in all previous years of its existence combined. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

By Andy Marken

Last year, more than four billion devices connected to the Internet shoved more data across the pipes than was sent from the Net’s beginnings in the late ‘60s through 2009 … combined. Industry experts estimate that it won’t be long before 15 billion devices will be connected to the Net; and by 2020, something like 50 billion devices will be “communicating” across the Net.

That’s more than six devices for every person on Earth. Contrary to what a lot of folks mesmerized by the glare of the oncoming headlights, they won’t all be iPads!

Most of us only use three or four connected devices—smartphone, tablet, TV, computer. The big chunk of the connected/communicating devices will be parts of sensor networks—low-power sensors that collect, transmit, analyze and distribute data on a massive scale.

Big numbers

Regardless of the device, if you run the numbers on the volumes of data that are going to be sent then…it’s huge.

Coming of Age—The Internet, the Web, social media and mobile devices have put content and content development into everyone’s hands; and boy, are they taking advantage of it by developing and distributing more data than ever. Last year, there was more data produced and distributed than in the previous 30 years combined. (Source: IDC)

Just think; back in 2008, only five exabytes of unique information were created. That’s about one billion DVDs.

This year, we’re creating a staggering 1.2 zettabytes (one zettabyte equals 1,024 exabytes). Yeah it’s a big number…really big number equal to:

  • Every person in the United States tweeting 3 tweets per minute for 26,976 years nonstop
  • Every person in the world having over 215 million high-resolution MRI scans per day
  • Over 200 billion HD movies (each 2 hours in length)—would take 1 person 47 million years to watch every movie 24×7

It is also the amount of information needed to fill 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads or Amazon Kindle Fires (the two “hot” tablets right now). With that many iPads/Fires we could:

  • Create a wall of devices, 4,005-miles long and 61-feet high extending from Anchorage, Alaska to Miami, Florida.
  • Build the Great device Wall of China—at twice the average height of the original
  • Build a 20-foot high wall around South America
  • Cover 86% of Mexico City
  • Build a mountain 25-times higher than Mt. Fuji

Social headache

Part of the problem is that social networking and personal devices have invaded the corporation.

Socializing—Social media didn’t just take over our home lives; it quickly spread across businesses as companies moved aggressively to monetize the opportunities and their presence. It also opened the doors, windows and cracks to enable everyone in the organization to become a social media specialist. All of this happened, and more than half of the firms have no social media guidelines or don’t think they do. (Source: IDC)

As a result, IT people and data centers are being dragged into untested waters of worrying about and protecting not only the company’s data, but also often having to manage and save user-generated content.

User creation = BYOD Headaches—When the boss says he wants to use his personal smartphone or iPad for his business activities, IT looked at the challenge with a lot of concern. Soon everyone in the organization wanted BYOD (bring your own device) and that meant IT had to not only support them but also protect the data that accompanied them. (Source: IDC)

The comingling of content is one of IT’s biggest headaches because suddenly they are “responsible” for stuff they didn’t want and can’t use, but a security breach in any of the data touch points can have an impact on everything else they’re responsible for.

Information security, waiting to be had: The challenge for IT is to evaluate what level(s) of information security they need to apply to the various data and content they have in their storage areas. Some requires stringent protection, while other data only needs “kinda’ nice” protection. Even then, a breach in any of the areas provides opportunities for malware and hacking of the more critical data. It’s all a matter of priorities. (Source: IDC)

The new solution that all the big (and small) players are saying will save us from the zettaflood is … the cloud. Cisco, EMC, IDC and others project that in the coming years as much as one-third of all data will live in or pass through the cloud.

Cloud services—which sounds so environmentally correct—will top $1 trillion in a couple of years.

Cute clouds

Realize it or not, like it or not; everyone today uses cloud storage. You post all of your most personal/private information on Facebook for them to monetize/share. You post photos on Flickr. You post videos on YouTube. Companies send/receive to encrypted files through private and public clouds. Some stays for a long time, some for a millisecond; but regardless, it’s long enough for bad guys/gals to do their damage.

Like it or not, feel it is safe/secure or not; we all use the cloud daily posting our life/soul on Facebook, uploading photos to/through Flickr, sharing/watching videos/movies on YouTube (48 hours of video uploaded every minute) and other entertainment outlets.

Of course, you and we both know that the cloud isn’t just a crisp, beautiful, constantly expanding storage space … right? All of that data and content comes to earth to sit waiting for you in expansive storage farms that house tens of thousands of hard drives, solid-state devices, tapes, optical discs.

Which device the content/data sits on depends on how quickly it’s needed, how often it’s needed, if it’s needed.

The fact that the majority of human knowledge and creation is solely digital concerns a lot of IT experts and academics. There are countless times where disaster or war have destroyed priceless works of human knowledge.

According to Wikipedia, the amount of data that exists today is about 98 times what existed in 1986.

Growth of unprotected data: Naked Data—Much like Moore’s Law, when the number of transistors double every two years on an IC, data is similarly doubling; but more than half of it is naked to the world with little to no protection. (Source: IDC)

IDC has pointed out that in the coming years, more than half of the data will be unprotected; which could be why Facebook keeps eight pages of all of your content, to protect you!

Facebook’s assistance aside, we continue our pursuit to digitize everything, not even realizing we don’t have a way to protect and recover that content. Our kids don’t worry about it though because they know they’ve got all the solid-state storage capacity they need on their smartphones and iPads.

Solid Boost

To goose up the capacity/performance/battery life of her MacBook Air our daughter just added one of Other World Computing’s 240GB SSD drives. Sure, it isn’t the 1TB capacity she would like; but it’s OK. She knows Dad has a 4TB home server and he’ll always pop for another TB or three if we need it because it ain’t that much!

Semiconductor Storage Demand: Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are usually designed around solid-state storage because it is rugged, ultra-fast for read/write operations and power conservative. While sales of the mobile devices are growing rapidly, they require only a portion of the solid-state storage units; which meet only a portion of our growing storage requirements. (Source: Combined Industry Reports)

Like so many—especially the chip manufacturers—she’d like to see solid-state storage everywhere; but there is that little issue of production capacities.

Most storage spins: Despite the many benefits of solid-state storage, most of the growing volume of data and content resides on hard drive devices because of their growing storage potential and steadily decreasing cost per GB of storage. (Source: Gartner)

The growth of the digital universe continues to outpace the growth of storage capacity. The good thing is that while a gigabyte of stored content generates a petabyte or more of transient data, it only exists for fleeting moments—digital TV signals, phone calls, etc. At the same time, we’re producing 75X the number of files or containers that encapsulate the information in the digital universe.

The industry has done a tremendous job at lowering the cost of storing data. As a result, people and companies store more data,” said David Reinsel, IDC’s vice president of storage and semiconductor research.

The key now is to get that data, that content when you need it.

Andy Marken is President of Marken Communications Inc. and a regular contributor to Jon Peddie Research’s TechWatch.