I've been reading lately about multi-petabyte storage requirements--the sort of thing that might be undertaken by the Center for Disease Control or Facebook. 

A petabyte costs about $40,000 today, plus those pesky other resources that go with it--processing, networking, applications, and people. 

Overall, we've entered The Zettabyte Age--estimates from various sources talk about tens of zettabytes zipping around in today's emerging Internet of Things. 

The Zettabyte Age
We must also be approaching the mile marker of a zettabyte of storage globally. This would come at a cost of about $40 billion, equal to the economy of a developed-world city of about 1 million people--say Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The next stop in the storage continuum is the yottabyte--something theoretically worth $40 trillion, or about two-thirds of the entire world's economy. 

Such a figure may seem comical today. But will it by 2040? I'm not a big believer in long-term projections, as they can distract us from the matters at hand. But I'm in the process of launching an #IoT2040 initiative, as I believe that we do need to have the patience to think over this timeframe to achieve true, sustainable economic and societal progress.

Not So Long Ago...
A quarter century ago, in 1989, a petabyte of storage would have cost about $40 billion. Yes, that means the cost has come down by a factor of one million -- cue Dr. Evil -- since that time. This incredible, continuous plummet in the cost of storage means, in the shorter term, that the price drops about 95% every five years.

So expect that zettabyte--one million petabytes--to cost about $2 billion in the year 2020 and only $40,000 by the year 2040.

This means the incredible notion of a yottabyte--which would require thousands of square miles of buildings to house today--will be available for $40 million by the year 2040. 

The Yottabyte
Will we need it? A yottabyte will store 30 billion years of HD video--roughly twice the age of the universe. 

Of course, if everyone wants their own personal copy, with 7 billion people on earth, each person would only get a little more than 4 years of video.

These numbers can seem absurd. But I've seen no slack in the pace of the drop in technology costs for 25 years now, and I don't expect the pace to diminish over the next 25 years. As storage makes what I think is an inevitable move to molecular, organic forms, that pace may in fact quicken in a quantum leap.

We're gonna need a bigger term...


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