As Western Digital HAMRs out larger drives, will cloud storage become more affordable?

internetzLast week, hard drive maker Western Digital showcased their implementation of Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology. HAMR works by heating high density magnetic compounds within a disk drive to dramatically increase the material’s data storage capacity. While this will mean big changes to hard drive tech as we know it, how will it affect businesses that are increasingly turning their focus to big data and the cloud? First, a few statistics on just how much data mankind is producing:

Analysts predict 25 trillion gigabytes of new data will be generated by 20201 and that average household storage needs in the U.S. will require as much as 3.3 TB by 2016,

This was WD’s vice president of technology, Dr. William Cain, likely referring to this study (PDF) by IDC. This level of growth he refers to is approximately a 2000% increase in global data consumption. According to Cain,

This tremendous growth in data requires continued increases in storage capacity and performance for the cloud, big data and consumer technologies. WD is focused on hard drive innovations that will enable future storage capabilities, and HAMR technology is a key step in the migration path.

The IDC gives us some numbers to work with:

From now until 2020, the digital universe will about double every two years.

The investment in spending on IT hardware, software, services, telecommunications and staff
that could be considered the “infrastructure” of the digital universe and telecommunications will
grow by 40% between 2012 and 2020. As a result, the investment per gigabyte (GB) during that
same period will drop from $2.00 to $0.20. Of course, investment in targeted areas like storage
management, security, big data, and cloud computing will grow considerably faster.

Western Digital isn’t the only firm getting in on the action, naturally, as WD competitor Seagate claims that their implentation of HAMR “could facilitate 60 terabyte 3.5-inch hard drives by 2016.” Seagate is also tinkering with Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), which they hope will make 5TB hard drives feasible in the coming year.

To put all this growth in capacity in perspective, consider that 1TB of data is about 62 iPads of storage, according to this handy 2010 infographic from WikiBon.

So we can expect data storage to get much cheaper over time as capacity ramps up tremendously thank to HAMR, but how will we handle this mass influx of data transfers without breaking the bank? Don’t stop building, says Amazon.

Seven days a week, the global cycle of building, testing, shipping, racking and deploying AWS’s computing gear “just keeps cranking,” Hamilton said. AWS now has servers deployed in nine regions across the world, and some of those regions include multiple data centers. The more you build, the better you get and the less risk-averse you get, he explained, and “the best thing you can do for innovation is drive the risk of failure down and make the cycle quicker.”

We’ve written before about just how massive big data and cloud spending are to expand in the coming years, but now we can finally paint a picture of where that money is going, and the sheer scale of how much data we’ll be consuming in years to come.

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