Digital universe and its impact bigger than thought

Digital universe and its impact bigger than thought

IT organizations will need to transform their existing relationships with business units, a study says

A white paper released Tuesday from International Data (IDC) revised earlier estimates by the research firm to show that by 2011, the amount of electronic data created and stored will grow 10 times the 180 exabytes that existed in 2006, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of almost 60 per cent.

By 2011, there will be 1,800 exabytes of electronic data in existence or 1.8 zettabytes (an exabyte is equal to 1 billion gigabytes). In fact, the number of bits stored already exceeds the estimated number of stars in the universe, IDC stated. And, because data is growing by a factor of 10 every five years, by 2023 the number of stored bits will surpass Avogadro's number, which is the number of carbon atoms in 12 grams or 602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 (6.022 x 1,023).

The study, "The Diverse and Exploding Digital Universe," also found that the rate at which electronic containers for that data -- files, images, packets, tag contents -- is growing 50 per cent faster than the data itself, and in the year 2011 data will be contained in more than 20 quadrillion -- 20 million billion -- of those containers, creating a tremendous management challenge for both businesses and consumers.

The study is an updated forecast to a white paper released last March.

Along with the new white paper, which was sponsored by EMC, IDC created a "Personal Digital Footprint Calculator," which resides on the same web page as EMC's worldwide digital growth tracking ticker that counts the amount of data created second by second.

"Obviously, none of us will relate to a number with 21 zeros at the end. The way that the ticker is practically blurred at the far end we hope will give people an idea of the pace - of how fast this is happening. In a way, this is the message of the study," John F. Gantz, IDC's chief research officer, said in a recorded interview.

IDC also admitted it underestimated earlier digital data figures for 2007, saying the actual amount of data -- 281 exabytes -- is 10 per cent greater than it had previously forecasted in a first "Digital Universe" study. IDC said the bigger numbers was the result of faster growth in digital cameras, televisions and data a better understanding of data replication.

The diversity of the digital data producing massive growth runs the gamut, from 6GB movies on DVD to 128-bit signals from RFID tags.

Less than half of the digital data being created by individuals can be accounted for by user activities, such as photos, phone calls, emails. The majority of the data is made up by what IDC calls digital "shadows" -- surveillance photos, Web search histories, financial transaction journals, mailing lists, etc.

Gantz said the impact of the tremendous data growth -- even if the data is not being created within the company's four walls -- will directly affect CIOs. A CIO in a data center that has been crunching numbers in IBM format for 40 years, "may be surprised what will happen" when all of the sudden all the voice calls in the enterprise are stored on disk and all the video cameras that used to be closed circuit TVs are now digital surveillance cameras forcing you to deal with video files, Gantz said.

Also, much of the data being created by consumers outside of an enterprise's four walls will still force that company to protect the data. "At some point in the life of every file, or bit or packet, 85 per cent of that information somewhere goes through a corporate computer, website, network or asset," Gantz said. "The corporation at that point in time has responsibility for that information. This is something that can be lost on the CIOs of the enterprises."

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