I was at another conference the other day where someone showed a chart that said the world will create 35ZB (10**21) of data and content in 2020 from 800EB (10**18) in 2009.
Every time I see something like this I cringe. Yes, lot’s of data is being created today but what does that tell us about corporate data growth. Not much, I’d wager.
That being said, I have a couple of questions I would ask of the people who estimated this:
- How much is personal data and how much is corporate data.
- Did you factor how entertainment data growth rates will change over time.
These two questions are crucial.
Entertainment dominates data growth
Just as personal entertainment is becoming the major consumer of national bandwidth (see study [requires login]), it’s clear to me that the majority of the data being created today is for personal consumption/entertainment – video, music, and image files.
I look at my own office, our corporate data (office files, PDFs, text, etc.) represents ~14% of the data we keep. Images, music, video, audio take up the remainder of our data footprint. Is this data growing yes, faster than I would like but the corporate data is only averaging ~30% YoY growth while the overall data growth for our shop is averaging a total of ~116% YoY growth . [As I interrupt this activity to load up another 3.3GB of photos and videos from our camera]
Moreover, although some media content is of significant external interest to select (Media and Entertainment, social media-photo/video sharing sites, mapping/satellite, healthcare, etc.) companies today, most corporations don’t deal with lot’s of video, music or audio data. Thus, I personally see that the 30% growth is a more realistic growth rate for corporate data than 116%.
Will entertainment data growth flatten?
Will we see a drop in the entertainment data growth rates over time, undoubtedly.
Two factors will reduce the growth of this data.
- What happens to entertainment data recording formats. I believe media recording formats are starting to level out. I think the issue here is one of fidelity to nature, in terms of how closely a digital representation matches reality as we perceive it. For example, the fact is that most digital projection systems in movie theaters today run from ~2 to 8TBs per feature length motion picture which seems to indicate that at some point further gains in fidelity (or in more pixels/frame) may not be worth it. Similar issues, will ultimately lead to a slowing down of other media encoding formats.
- When will all the people that can create content be doing so? Recent data indicates that more than 2B people will be on the internet this year or ~28% of the world’s. But sometime we must reach saturation on internet penetration and when that happens data growth rates should also start to level out. Let’s say for argument sake, that 800EB in 2009 was correct and let’s assume there were 1.5B internet users (in 2009). As such, 1B internet users correlates to a data and content footprint of about 533EB or ~0.5TB/internet user — seems high but certainly doable.
Once these two factors level off, we should see world data and content growth rates plummet. Nonetheless, internet user population growth could be driving data growth rates for some time to come.
The scary part is that the 35ZB represents only a ~41% growth rate over the period against the baseline 2009 data and content creation levels.
But I must assume this estimate doesn’t consider much growth in digital creators of content, otherwise these numbers should go up substantially. In the last week, I ran across someone who said there would be 6B internet users by the end of the decade (can’t seem to recall where, but it was a TEDx video). I find that a little hard to believe but this was based on the assumption that most people will have smart phones with cellular data plans by that time. If that be the case, 35ZB seems awfully short of the mark.
A previous post blows this discussion completely away with just one application, (see Yottabytes by 2015 for the NSA A Yottabyte (YB) is 10**24 bytes of data) and I had already discussed an Exabyte-a-day and 3.3 Exabytes-a-day in prior posts. [Note, those YB by 2015 are all audio (phone) recordings but if we start using Skype Video, FaceTime and other video communications technologies can Nonabytes (10**27) be far behind… BOOM!]
I started out thinking that 35ZB by 2020 wasn’t pertinent to corporate considerations and figured things had to flatten out, then convinced myself that it wasn’t large enough to accommodate internet user growth, and then finally recalled prior posts that put all this into even more perspective.