In the era of cloud, big data, smartphones and tablets, we’ve become used to talking petabytes, exabytes, even zettabytes. Given how fast data is growing, what comes after zettabytes? GigaOM raised this same question in their post “As data gets bigger, what comes after a yottabyte?”
The answer: Brontobyte & Gegobyte
Here is a fun experiment. Instead of talking about the number of hard drives it takes to accommodate such demand for storage, what if we imagine it in terms of a physical size — the actual physical size of a hard drive, in terms of the square feet (or square miles) one drive fills — and imagine what that would mean for higher capacities, given today’s areal density capabilities.
Today’s 4 terabyte 3.5-inch drive is roughly .16 square feet, which means you can get approximately 24 terabytes per square foot. That’s .0046 square miles of land mass per 4 terabytes. Assuming 1 terabyte per disk was the maximum areal density, and hard drives will not get any thicker than 1 inch:
- An exabyte hard drive would be about the size of Connecticut
- A zettabyte hard drive would be about the size of Antarctica
- A yottabyte hard drive would cover the earth 23 times
- A brontobyte hard drive would cover the earth 23,000 times
- A gegobyte hard drive would cover the earth 23,000,000 times
Many of us have a hard enough time wrapping our heads around a zettabyte, much less a yottabyte, brontobyte, or gegobyte. A terabyte is still a large amount of space for most consumers, and it conveniently comes in a relatively small package. Heck, some consumer devices are still measured in gigabytes.
When we buy that terabyte external drive for backup or simply additional storage, obviously we think it’s more than enough, and the physical size it just about right.
But, for a world of increasingly connected devices (the internet of things), where data analytics (big data) is increasingly what businesses rely on to carve the corporate path to success (or failure — depending on the data interpretation), the “bytes” gap between consumer and corporation is widening.
We’re already talking in zettabytes. According to the GigaOM post, “Cisco estimates we’ll see a 1.3 zettabytes of traffic annually over the internet in 2016,” and Seagate estimates suggest total storage capacity demand will reach 7 zettabytes in 2020.
The decade we are in (2010 to 2020) will take us from talking about exabytes to talking about zettabytes. The question is, how soon will we be talking yottabytes, or even brontobytes, or dare I say, gegobytes?