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Wanted: 40 trillion gigabytes of open storage, stat!

Jon L. Jacobi | Jan. 30, 2013
Gigabytes and terabytes are so passé. It's soon going to be a zettabyte world thanks to all the digital data--images, books, music, movies, video, documents, maps, you name it--that we collect and engage with throughout our lives.

Terri McClure, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, says the more mobile gear we have, the more we'll want push data to the cloud so we can later access documents, video, and music from anywhere.

On the back end, the rise in the number of big cloud storage services such as Amazon S3,, and Nirvanix is enabling smaller consumer cloud services to flourish online. For example, Amazon S3 has become a turnkey service for customers like Dropbox. It just passed its 100 millionth registered user milestone and says one billion files are stored per day on Dropbox.

For years these cloud warehouses were not held back by NAND, SSD, or HHD hardware issues. The hard part was the scalability and manageability of crushing amounts of data. Traditional hierarchic files systems were never intended to store hundreds of millions and billions of files in a single namespace. This old network file system (NFS) architecture forced data to be stored in multiple file systems, sometimes in multiple locations, and in complex directory structures.

Enter object storage, a relatively new way of storing data that organizes it into objects. Each object is made up of bytes, but also includes metadata describing the object. This allows data to be stored more efficiently and organized by metadata for easier retrieval.

Next up, the Storage Networking Industry Association is proposing a new standard called Cloud Data Management Interface. CDMI is a set of protocols defining how companies can safely move data between private and public clouds. The standard is open, allowing for wide adoption and the opportunity to associate more defined rules around object storage data, such as how long data should be retained, how many copies should be kept, and whether those copies need to be distributed geographically.

Enterprise Strategy Group's McClure says CDMI is a driving factor for making business more comfortable about moving data from backroom servers to the cloud. Twenty-two percent of the companies it surveyed that already store data in the cloud said that in the next three years they would move 90 to 100 percent of their data to the cloud.

Price Trends

While it's a given that storage will continue to drop in terms of price per gigabyte, how fast and how far are always the questions. It's impossible to factor in events such as the 2011 floods in Thailand that halted some manufacturing and significantly raised hard-drive prices. However, as bad as the floods were for the people of Thailand, they had a sobering effect on the hard-drive industry--a time-out as it were. Hard-drive prices have again dropped, but not quite back to pre-flood levels, and they are not in the free fall that they had been in.


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