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by Steve Todd | May 06, 2010


Every year since 2007, the IDC has sponsored a study of information growth. The IDC is a forecasting firm with a focus on high-tech. Their study attempts to size the “Digital Universe” by measuring the amount of digital information created or captured in the previous year, and predicting information growth going forward.

data storageOne of the more startling statistics from the study is that in 2009, in the midst of an economic decline, the amount of digital information grew a staggering 62%!

In the 80s, anyone involved in the tech industry knew the words kilobyte and megabyte. As the industry experienced advances in disk drive technologies in the 90s, the word gigabyte became more prevalent. Last decade the words terabyte and petabyte became commonly used.

It’s time to start talking about what’s beyond petabytes: zettabytes. The IDC is forecasting that by 2020 the world will have generated 35 ZB of information, with one ZB equivalent to one trillion gigabytes.

Let’s explore how this data translates into high-tech jobs:

  1. There will be a need for engineers to build and test the next generation of high-tech products that can effectively ingest, organize, move, retain, destroy, and manage this amount of information.
  2. There will be a need for consultants, sales, and field support technicians to advise customers on how to manage this amount of information.
  3. There will be a need for IT specialists who physically manage this information.
  4. There will be a need for Chief Information Officers who manage and govern the information owned by their organizations.

I’ve already written several blog posts that describe important areas to explore when it comes to understanding how technology deals with explosive information growth. Here is a brief review of (and link to) of some of these technologies:

  • Massive amounts of information are currently being stored on highly-scalable disk arrays.
  • The enormous amounts of digital objects that are being created are often best housed using object-based techniques.
  • Information can be “shrunk” down significantly by using a technology known as deduplication.
  • Local laws regarding the retention and long-term management of information are commonly referred to as GRC: governance, risk, and compliance.
  • The way that information is stored affects how quickly (or slowly) the information can be retrieved. Data layout is critical.

Perhaps the most important ramification of “the decade of the zettabyte” is that more and more corporations will give up even trying to manage this much information. They will outsource the management of their information to a “cloud service provider”. Cloud service providers will specialize in the administration of digital information, including managing the hardware and software used to store it, deduplicating it, governing it, and laying it out for optimal retrieval.

Companies like Amazon and Google have started to build “public clouds”, where anyone can “rent space” to store their information.

Many businesses are not yet comfortable storing their information on a public cloud, so they are beginning to build “private clouds” within their own data centers. One of the more important attributes of private clouds is that they should enable eventual migration of information to publicly hosted clouds over time.

The growth of information can translate to a growth in jobs for those who capitalize on the early stages of this wave. For more information on private clouds, visit the Private Cloud website. For a wider perspective of the IDC study, feel free to review the following blogs and announcements:

  • Gina Minks
  • Len Devanna
  • Chuck Hollis
  • Brian Henderson
  • Press Release

Twitter: @SteveTodd
EMC Intrapreneur


Filed Under: Technology

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