The Next Level Of Storage

May 13 2014, 4:56pm CDT | by

Within the past few months Seagate and Western Digital have announced 6 TB HDDs.  Seagate has hinted that 8 and 10 TB HDDs (and even 20 TB) are not far off and SanDisk announced high performance enterprise SSDs with 4 TB, with a roadmap to 11 TB or greater.  Sony and Panasonic announced 300 GB write-once Blu-ray optical discs by 2015 with a path to 1 TB in the near future.  In addition, at the recent IEEE Magnetics Society InterMag Conference, Sony announced technology to achieve 185 TB on magnetic tape (currently Oracle has the record for shipping magnetic tape cartridges at 8.5 TB).

Why the large storage device capacities?  It is because the amount of stuff we are creating and storing digitally is exploding.  According to IDC the total digital universe of stored content could reach 40 Zettabytes by 2020 (1 Zetabyte is 1 followed by 21 zeros).  In CQ1 2014 over 200 Exabytes of HDD storatge capacity was shipped (a Zettabyte is 1,000 Exabytes).  My own estimate is that by 2023 a single high end video production could create close to an Exabyte of content.  Digital content is information and the intelligent use of information will drive significant wealth and opportunity for the next few decades.

Storage Scale:

1 Gigabyte = 1 followed by 9 zeros

1 Terabyte = 1 followed by 12 zeros

1 Petabyte = 1 followed by 15 zeros

1 Exabyte = 1 followed by 18 zeros

1 Zettabyte = 1 followed by 21 zeros

1 Yottabyte = 1 followed by 24 zeros

Continued access to this stored content and its intelligent use to achieve human goals is behind the growth of on-line connected IT resources.  This is driving the development of cloud storage and enables the combinations of storage, networking and processing that make data analytics possible—and the mobile applications that drive modern consumer and business practices.

At the same time the use of this vast sea of potentially useful data drives requirements for tiered storage and compute resources that allow the most cost effective access to these ever growing data pools.  This is why demand for storage technologies that span the performance and cost spectrum can provide great value for many user applications.

Building upon the growth of on-line storage requirements, rapid processing of data and its use in mobile applications, IBM has introduced an Elastic Storage offering called IBM Software Defined Storage.   This technology is software that allows tiering of data between various storage technologies from different storage hardware vendors, offering a trade-off of performance vs. storage costs, with the data processing power that fueled the IBM Watson Jeopardy championship.

IBM says that this technology can work with 1,000’s of Yottabytes (1 Yottabyte = 1,000 Zettabytes) of data in a single global namespace in billions of files, stored in distributed data centers located around the world.  The technology is a software offering providing data encryption and thus cryptographic erase.  Due to its use of storage tiering Elastic Storage automatically moves infrequently used data to less expensive low cost tape drives while storing more frequently used data on high-speed flash memory.  The use of flash cache can provide a 6X performance improvement vs. SAS HDDs.

The amount of information that we will store in the coming decades is simply staggering.  Smart intelligent connected devices and ever-higher resolution content from more content capture devices will create Yottabytes of total content over the next few decades.  This content will be critical to human survival and prosperity and digital storage will need to move to a higher level to support these vast and disparate stored content pools.


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