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Just How Much Storage?

A good friend of mine recently got in contact to ask my professional opinion on something for a book he was writing; it always amazes me that anyone asks my professional opinion on anything…especially people who have known me for many years but as he’s a great friend, I thought I’d  try to help.

He asked me how much a petabyte of storage would cost today and when I thought it would affordable for an individual? Both parts of the question are interesting in their own way.

How would a petabyte of storage cost? Why, it very much depends; it’s not as much as it cost last year but not as a cheap as some people would think. Firstly, it depends on what you might want to do with it; capacity, throughput and I/O performance are just part of the equation.

Of course then you’ve got the cost of actually running it; 400-500 spindles of spinning stuff takes a reasonable amount of power, cooling and facilities. Even if you can pack it densely, it is still likely to fall through the average floor.

There are some very good deals to be had mind you but you are still looking at several hundred thousand pounds, especially if you look at a four year cost.

And when will the average individual be able to afford a petabyte of storage? Well without some significant changes in storage technology; we are some time away from this being feasible. Even with 10 Terabyte disks, we are talking over a hundred disks.

But will we ever need a petabyte of personal storage? That’s extremely hard to say; I wonder if we will we see the amount of personal storage peak in the next decade?

And as for on-premises personal storage?

That should start to go into decline, for me it is already beginning to do so; I carry less storage around than I used to…I’ve replaced my 120Gb iPod with a 32 Gb phone but if I’m out with my camera, I’ve probably got 32Gb+ of cards with me. Yet with connected cameras coming and 4G (once we get reasonable tariffs), this will probably start to fall off.

I also expect to see the use of spinning rust go into decline as PVRs are replaced with streaming devices; it seems madness to me that a decent proportion of the world’s storage is storing redundant copies of the same content. How many copies of EastEnders does the world need to be stored on a locally spinning drive?

So I am not sure that we will get to a petabyte of personal storage any time soon but we already have access to many petabytes of storage via the Interwebs.

Personally, I didn’t buy any spinning rust last year and although I expect to buy some this year; this will mostly be refreshing what I’ve got.

Professionally, looks like over a petabyte per month is going to be pretty much run-rate.

That is a trend I expect to see continue; the difference between commercial and personal consumption is going to grow. There will be scary amounts of data around about you and generated by you; you just won’t know it or access it.


  • https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/sanblog/?lang=en_us Sebastian Thaele (@Zyrober)

    In 2021 my personal holodeck will “consume” several petabytes and the 3D-Food-printer (erm… “Replicator”) has very complicated recipies, too :-)
    Jokes aside I think it’s not really predictable. Of course the all-time-and-everywhere-available cloud storage with the high-bandwidth mobile access methods seems to make big personal storages obsolete. But we don’t really know what killer application could and technical leap could provide us with a 1-Petabyte-USB stick and a reason for it tomorrow. Remember the galaxy in the cat’s collar in Men in Black? :D