Big Data, Cheap Storage
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 13, 2011
When you think back to the Y2K issue, the main reason programmers didn't use four-digit year fields was to save a couple of bytes of valuable disk space. And rightly so – disk space cost about $200 a megabyte in 1980.
Now, many rightly worry about the onslaught of “Big Data” – unstructured files, graphics, audio, video, and social media data – that is threatening to overwhelm our data centers. Many organizations have databases supporting hundreds of terabytes of data.
If they had to pay 1980 prices for, say, 500 TBs of disk, that would amount to a $100 billion price tag, just for storage.
But that isn't the case. The cost for raw storage for a site with 500 TBs is about $41,050, or about 0.0004% of what it was three decades ago.
This information is culled from a simple but very busy website that documents the typical costs of storage, based on actual product retail pricing, from 1956 until the current day.
Moore's Law and economies of scale keep making storage cheaper and cheaper, down to about eight cents a gigabyte as of late summer 2010, the last entry on the site.
Of course, many enterprises are just as focused on storage costs with cloud services as they are with buying their own on-site storage. Amazon Web Services, for example, charges just under 10 cents a gigabyte per month for storage, which is actually a bit more than buying your own disk for the long term – of course, you don't have to worry about servers, uptime, provisioning, and maintenance, either.
The bottom line is that nobody thinks about storage hardware in all the discussions about the challenges and opportunities in Big Data. Yet, without dirt cheap storage, there would be no Big Data. And no cloud for that matter, either.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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