Digital data created in 2020 forecasted at 35 zettabytes; cloud computing will manage data growth

An IDC Digital Universe study estimates amount of digital data created per year will be 35 zettabytes by 2020; forecasts cloud computing will play an integral role in managing data growth.

There was no global recession in data growth in 2009, according to a Digital Universe study by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. The technology research and consulting firm estimates the worldwide volume of digital data grew by 62% between 2008 and 2009 to nearly 800,000 petabytes (PB). IDC claims this 'Digital Universe' will grow to 1.2 million PB, or 1.2 zettabytes (ZB) in 2010 and reach 35 ZB by 2020.

The report also said there's a growing gap between the amount of digital data being created and the amount of available storage.

Since 2007, IDC has prepared a Digital Universe Study on behalf of EMC Corp., and estimated the amount of digital data created each year. The 2010 study also includes examines the ramifications of data growth on storage, how cloud storage fits in, and where consumers and IT professionals fit in the future of digital media.

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The IDC study estimates that in 2009, if every byte of digital data created were to be stored, there would be a 35% shortfall in available storage. By 2020, IDC estimates the gap will grow to more than 60%.

Of the 35 ZB of data expected by 2020, nearly 75% will be copies of original data, which represents an opportunity for cost reductions using advanced data services such as compression and data deduplication.

Other results from the 2010 study include the amount of containers that will hold all of the digital data, and the changing sizes of the data files. The study estimates there will be 25 quintillion (that's 25,000,000,000,000,000,000) information containers — packets, files, images, records, and signals — that will hold the Digital Universe data by 2020. And the files are getting smaller with the growth of embedded systems, including smart grids, smart cities and logistic item tracking.

Cloud computing an integral part of the Digital Universe

Cloud computing will become an integral part of the Digital Universe in coming years, according to IDC. More than 34% of total worldwide digital data will be stored or secured by cloud services, transported using a cloud services email system or shared community, the study claims. More than 14% of the data will be centrally hosted, managed, or stored in cloud services.

The increased use of cloud services will be even more important by 2020 for four reasons, according to IDC. First, the use of cloud services should lower the portion of the IT budget devoted to legacy system maintenance. The money organizations will save by using cloud services will drive innovation and more than $1 trillion in increased business revenue by 2020 the report says.

Second, individual user-generated data makes up more than 70% of the Digital Universe. In 2010, the study estimates that enterprises created 240 exabytes (EB) of digital data, while individual users created more than 900 EB. Cloud services will become more important to individual users as mobile devices and mobile access to data becomes more prevalent, and as users seek more environmentally friendly ways of storing data.

Third, the increased use of advanced data services such as compression and data deduplication with primary data storage will become more important as enterprises and cloud services providers search for ways to manage the ongoing explosive digital data growth. The marriage of cloud services and primary storage data deduplication could dramatically help storage providers manage the amount of necessary containers and storage capacity.

Fourth, the explosive growth in digital data won't be matched by an aggressive growth in IT staffing or investment. The study estimates that the Digital Universe will grow by a factor of 44 between 2009 and 2020, the number of storage containers will grow by a factor of 67, and the amount of storage capacity will grow by a factor of 30. Yet the staffing and IT investment required to manage the Digital Universe will grow by a factor of only 1.4. Enterprises and organizations will be forced to search for creative ways to manage their data, and the cloud is an obvious opportunity.

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