The ancient Mayan calendar runs out next week and when we all wake up on Tuesday 22 December to find that the world hasn't ended after all, it'll be time to latch on to the next doomsday scenario. TelecomTV commends to your attention the data tsunami that will be upon us in less than eight years. 40 zettabytes is about 50 times more than there are grains of sand on our planet. By Martyn Warwick.
At this time of the year it is traditional for pundits to peer into their pint pots and plant pots preparatory to preparing a prescription of preternaturally percipient prognostications pertaining to possibilities for future prospects. Here at TelecomTV we're not immune to that temptation either (or to the tendency to over-alliterate) and we'll soon be regaling you with our hopes and fears for 2013.
However, to keep you going in the meantime, the information website 'Digital Universe' peers further into the mists of time than we would ever dare. The chaps and chapesses at Digital Universe have boldly gone forwards by seven and a bit years to predict that by 2020 there will be 5,200 GB out there in cyberspace for each and every person on the planet! That's 40 zettabytes in total and I don't have enough room in this article to bash out the necessary number of zeros to illustrate how huge that number is.
But, to help us put it into some kind of perspective, the Digital Universe points out that 40 zettabytes it is 40 trillion gigabytes and 40 trillion Gigs is reckoned to be 50 or some times more than all the grains of sand on the earth.
The study bases its prediction on an expectation that data will double every two years between 2012 and 2020. This increase will be fueled not only by the creation of ever more data by humanity but also by an increasing percentage generated automatically by a myriad of M2M devices and applications.
As far as the Digital Universe is concerned, the digital universe comprises "everything from images and videos on mobile phones uploaded to YouTube to digital movies populating the pixels of high-definition TVs to transponders recording highway tolls. It also includes more traditional corporate data, such as banking data swiped in an ATM, security footage at airports and major events such as the Olympic Games, as well as subatomic collisions recorded by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN" - and everything else in between.
There is already an unimaginable amount of data in existence and whirling around us and it is added to, massively, every hour of every day. However, our ability to analyse that data is in its infancy.
The research house IDC reckons that by 2020 a third of all data will have a continuing relevance and value if only it can be analysed properly.
What IDC is talking about here is the lure and promise of "Big Data": the untapped mother lode of golden data running in un-numbered and un-numberable seams through the strata of digital universe, that, when properly mined, tagged and put into the right context will provide incalculable value to those that understand how to manipulate and exploit it.
That's the theory. The reality is still some considerable way off, not least because the amount of data available in the world is growing so fast that more and more data storage is required and more and more powerful software is needed to make sense of it all. According to the latest IDC study on the subject, businesses, corporations, organisations and governments will need to increase their storage capacity by at least a factor of 10 by 2020 - and that's a conservative estimate.
What's more, ever as the number of virtual and physical servers servers increase by 10 times their present number the amount of data to be captured and held will grow by a factor of 14 whilst the base of data professionals needed to manage everything will increase a mere 1.5 times. If these figures are correct, and there's no indication that they are not, then obviously something will have to happen or the whole shebang will eventually go into meltdown. So far the solution would seem to be massive re-organisions and re-structurings to permit the convergence of networks and the integration of servers and storage to collect, collate, manipulate and exploit data.
Most industry commentators and insiders believe that this will be managed to best and most economic effect in the cloud. IDC points out that while spending on public and private cloud computing accounts for under than five per cent of total IT spending in 2012, it will be 40 per cent and rising by 2020. That said, IDC reckons that although in seven or eight years time getting on for half of the digital universe will pass through one cloud formation or another during processing or storage, only 15 per cent will reside and be maintained in the cloud.
And as economies rise and fall and the pendulum of power swings, those nations that now contribute the most to the digital universe will see their input diminish as other countries overtake them. For example, whereas in the past 48 per cent of the digital universe was colonised by the US and western Europe, by 2020 the share of data originated by emerging economies around the world will be 62 per cent by 2020 with China alone generating 21 per cent of it.
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