‘The Mark of Zettabyte’

Nov. 2, 2018
by Mark Ollig

I love autumn. It’s my favorite time of year; the only problem is, it doesn’t last long enough.

Looking out the window next to my writing desk, I see trees along the street boulevard showing off their vibrant late-fall colors of red, gold, and yellow leaves.

So, relax and be comfortably seated; perhaps you’re already sipping on a satisfying light-roast or latté as we continue with today’s topic.

Being this is a “Bits and Bytes” column, I need to briefly address them.

One bit (binary digit) is the smallest unit of data used in a computer. One bit has a single binary value of either 0 or 1.

One unit of digital information consists of eight bits.

Eight bits is equal to one byte. See? This binary stuff is easy-peasy.

And for those of you who like to fish; four bits equals a nibble, but we needn’t concern ourselves with nibbles today.

Ok, let’s examine a zettabyte.

Zettabyte begins with a Z, and may remind people of the courageous vigilante from the movie, “The Mark of Zorro.”

For today’s column, I will play the carefree street writer in “The Mark of Zettabyte.”

To wrap our heads around a zettabyte, let’s review how it compares to today’s better-known data expressions.

Some of you may have a smartphone with 31 gigabytes (GB) of data storage like mine. 1 GB equals one billion bytes.

It would take 1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) GB’s to equal one zettabyte.

OK, since you asked, here’s another one: 1 zettabyte equals 1,000,000,000,000,000 (quadrillion) megabytes (MB).

Consider the internal hard drive on a computer with its storage capacity of 1 or 2 terabytes.

Now, consider this: 1 zettabyte (ZB) equals 1,000,000,000 (billion) terabytes (TB).

And now, for the Lollapalooza with 21 zeroes behind it: one zettabyte equals 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (sextillion) bytes (SB).

I hear one of my readers thinking, “Why is Mark throwing out all these numbers with lots of zeroes?"

From time to time, I’ll include some background information before delivering the goods; similar to setting out some appetizers before bringing the main course to the dinner table.

Hold on, folks, the main course is now being brought out.

The Feb. 6, 2012, Bits & Bytes column reviewed the Cisco Live 2012 conference in London. “Acceleration from Zero to Zetta,” was Cisco’s keynote address topic.

“We are fast entering the zettabyte era,” said Padmasree Warrior, Cisco senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer.

Warrior said we are undergoing a “data deluge and technology transformation.”

I agreed then, and I still do today.

With the growing number of people using smartdevices, and the rising number of Internet of Things (IoT) smart-sensors collecting, sharing, and storing mountains of data in the clouds of the internet, we have indeed entered a data tidal wave.

As we know, the internet is a collection of public (and private) networks containing data centers and communication facilities and is commonly called the cloud.

Data centers within the cloud need to expand their capacity; they are evolving into hyperscale data centers.

Today, there are more than 400 hyperscale data centers collaborating with hundreds of thousands of computing and storage servers operating over high-speed networks.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, and others use hyperscale data centers.

Buildings containing hyperscale data centers average over one-half million square feet.

The US has the highest number of hyperscale data centers, followed by China.

By 2020, it is estimated there will be 500 hyperscale data centers, worldwide.

Most data centers (clouds) are buildings with rooms filled with tall cabinet bays containing shelves equipped with printed wiring cards, electronic component modules, fiber-optic and power cabling, routers, software, switches, computers, and cooling systems.

Double and/or triple commercial power redundancy, along with power generator backup systems are available within the data centers.

Data from one cloud is sometimes distributed to other clouds over facilities, such as copper and fiber-optic cables, wireless communication towers, and Earth-orbiting satellites; ultimately communicating with computing devices and IoT.

Two years ago, a noteworthy event occurred.

September 2016, global internet data center traffic surpassed the zettabyte threshold.

Here is one way to visualize a zettabyte: “If each gigabyte in a zettabyte was a brick, 258 Great Walls of China could be built,” wrote Taru Khurna, a research analyst with Cisco.

This year in North America, the total amount of cloud data traffic is estimated to be 3.8 zettabytes, according to research studies conducted by Statista.

The rest of the world will create 3.9 zettabytes, which brings the total global cloud data traffic to 7.7 zettabytes.

In 2021, nearly 94 percent of all data and computer programming tasks will be processed by cloud data centers, according to Cisco.

“Driven by the Internet of Things, the total amount of data created (not necessarily stored) by every device will reach 847 ZB [Zettabytes] per year by 2021,” predicts Cisco’s Global Cloud Index 2016-21 White Paper report.

Soon, instead of talking about zettabytes, I’ll need to write a column about yottabytes.

Did you know one yottabyte is equal to the data contained in 250 trillion compact DVD discs?

You’re right; I won’t get started on yottabytes today.

Eventually, I’ll need to get with the times and rename my column “Zettabytes and Yottabytes.”

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