The shock value of the recent prediction by research group IDG that the world will be creating 163 zettabytes of data a year by 2025 depends on three things.
Firstly, who knows what a zettabyte is (one trillion gigabytes)? Secondly, what is the current annual data creation rate (16.3ZB)? And thirdly do these figures mean anything in a world where we take for granted that data will expand exponentially forever and mostly accept the future reality of autonomous cars and intelligent personal assistants, yet have little real idea of how they will change our lives?
IDC’s paper, Data Age 2025, perhaps answers only the first two questions. Forecasting a ten-fold increase in worldwide data by 2025, it envisions an era focused on creating, utilizing and managing “life critical” data necessary for the smooth running of daily life.
Consumers will create, share and access data on a completely device-neutral basis. The cloud will grow well beyond previous expectations and corporate leaders will have unparalleled opportunities to leverage new business opportunities, it predicts. But firms will also need to make strategic choices on data collection, utilization and location.
I recently interviewed Jeff Fochtman, vice-president of marketing Seagate Technology, the $14BN market capitalization data storage group that sponsored the IDC report.
“For individuals and businesses, a data deluge can cause problems in just being able to manage, store and access that data,” he says.
“But the thing that jumps out at me is the critical problems that data is going to solve. On an increasingly populated planet, data is going to solve the things impacting on the human experience: traffic, how we move around, how we grow food and how we feed the population globally. More than ever, data is going to be critical to humanity.”
IDC says that in a shift from the current situation, 60% of the world’s data will be created and managed by businesses in 2025, with this trend driven by the evolution of data from business to life-critical applications, the rise of embedded systems and the Internet of Things, the growth of machine learning and the advent of true mobile and real-time data.
It predicts that by 2025 nearly 20% of the data in the global datasphere will be critical to our daily lives.
In eight years’ time, an average connected person anywhere in the world will interact with connected devices nearly 4,800 times per day – one interaction every 18 seconds.
Meanwhile, the amount of the global datasphere that’s subject to data analysis will grow by a factor of 50 and more than a quarter of all data created will be real-time.
Data creation, it says, will shift its drive from entertainment content to productivity-driven and embedded data, as well as non-entertainment images and video such as surveillance and advertising.
What To Use And What To Store
That doesn’t mean that all this data has to be kept, of course. In fact, IDC reckons that only 19ZB of the total amount of data that will be generated between now and 2025 will actually be stored.
“We store less than 1% of the data we create,” says Hochtman, “and that number will continue to decline. The percentage of the data created that is stored is going down because firstly it’s impossible to keep up with the rate of it and secondly it’s not all necessary. The amount of storage shipped cannot keep up with the amount of data created. The tipping point of that is the Internet of Things. There will just be so many sensor points and so much data that doesn’t need to be stored.”
Seagate claims to have more of the world’s information stored on its products than any other company.
However, Fochtman sees plenty of difficult choices ahead. “How do we manage that much data?” He asks.
“We could break ground and build more factories to ship more storage but there’s an inflection point there on the cost and how to manage that much storage. What is the right amount of storage to ship? It’s not really about catching up with data created. It’s about what is the right amount of data to store and how to extract the business value, the value for human experience and the personal value. That’s the choice and it’s a definitive challenge.”