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Four Terabytes of Storage?

Four Terabytes of Storage?

Reading through the tech news, you can’t help but come across this story from the BBC website:

A single hard drive with four terabytes of storage (4TB) could be a reality by 2011, thanks to a nanotechnology breakthrough by Japanese firm Hitachi. The company has successfully managed to shrink the read-write head of a hard drive to two thousands times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The smaller head can read greater densities of data stored on the disk.

Hitachi said the advance would fuel the “terabyte era”, with a 4TB drive able to hold more than a million songs.

Why? Why would anyone need this much storage space?

1,000,000 songs is around 50,000 hours of listening time. That’s nearly 6 years of 24/7 listening; and that’s only if you like 3-minute dance tracks. If your genre of choice is more towards Bohemian Rhapsody, you can comfortably push past the 10-year mark without breaking a sweat.

Also, if we put aside the amount of storage space and concentrate on the amount of time it would take to actually fill it, you can see that there is a separate issue that is being missed here.

In September, Computeractive magazine conducted a study of UK broadband speeds. Circa 3000 readers took part in the study, which revealed some huge discrepancies between advertised speed and actual speed.

The average speed for an 8mbps consumer is actually far closer to 2.7mbps. 

At this rate, it takes around 3 seconds to download 1mb. To fill your 4tb harddrive with a decade of tunes would take another 4-years; and that’s not allowing for the dragging force of wireless or webserver speed at your purchasing site.

So if your home PC takes 4 years to download and 10 years to listen to, why would anyone download a million tracks? Or want to spend £800,000 ($1.6million) on iTunes?

Perhaps it may be better to invest in improving the current web infrastructure – and, in particular, download speeds – before pushing for petrabyte hard drive…?

I for one would be far happier if my internet and wireless connections ran at the advertised speeds (or above the advertised speeds) than if I had a huge amount of storage available.

Also, with the push towards more and more web-based applications, it seems that the race for local storage could be a thing of the past in the very near future.

So, I ask again, why? Why bother with the development of this level of storage if you don’t have a) the data to store, b) the time to use the data that you did store, c) the functionality to write the data fast enough or d) a small fortune to invest in Sony/EMI?

Hitachi predicts it could release a hard disk for desktops with 4TB of storage and a laptop with a 1TB drive by 2011; so we have a bit of time to find ways of reading the data faster in the interim.

In the meantime, I’m off to listen to some music…


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