Digital universe drivel

IDC has been headline-grabbing on EMC's behalf, and very effectively too. Its report on The Expanding Digital Universe - or digital obesity as those of us on a digital diet see it -

- says that by 2010 the amount of information created will surpass, for the first time, the storage capacity available'. Cue deep and meaningful sigh. Then re-insert common sense into brain and ask if this makes sense? Actually, it's bunk.

In times of old when the only storage media were cave walls and papyrus scrolls a huge amount of information was created - people spoke to each other. Information doesn't have to be recorded to be information. It merely has to be conveyed from human being to human being. Every year since then the amount of information created has exceeded the then world's ability to store it. Even if we restrict ourselves to recorded information and think of newspapers, magazines and junk mail then it's obvious that our ability to produce this stuff is far larger than our ability to store it - unless we regard landfill as a viable storage method. I mean, get real IDC.

What IDC is really saying is that by 2010 the traditional inability of human beings to store the information they have created will be replicated in the digital world with digital information. Well, so what? Do what we've always done with excess information - throw it away. There's no need, as IDC's executive summary meaningfully, and certainly with no influence whatsoever from EMC's marketing folks, says, for this to drive organisations to develop more information-centric computing architectures. Just give employees disk quotas and tell them that .PST files will be deleted if more than 30 days old.

Just apply the usual tests to other data. For example, if the savings to be gained from using RFID information are greater than the cost of the drive arrays to store the RFID bits then buy the drive arrays. If not, don't. Standard ROI criteria apply - as usual, as ever.

There's no crisis over shelves. We don't have a cringeworthy consultancy telling us that by 2010 the world will create more printed matter than we will have shelves to put it on. There's no looming shelf crisis. We just throw the excess stuff away. What is the problem here? More bits to store than drives to store them on? Hit the delete key. Write a CD or DVD and wipe the disk drives. Multiple copies of e-mail attachments? Have a central e-mail archive and store them once only. Too much spam? Get the dratted ISPs to detect it when it comes through their perimeters and delete it. You simply don't have to receive all the information sent to you and store most of it either. We don't with junk mail and we won't with digital junk data.

It couldn't be that EMC marketing needs business to be frightened about a digital data explosion, so much so that it looks for information-centric computing architectures from its nearest big, friendly, cuddly, IT supplier? Won't customers see through this 'emit more crapola' report and see it as junk marketing? So we won't be able to store all the digital information we produce: so what? The digital world comes to resemble what's been the case in the analogue world for ever. It hasn't mattered a bean there and it won't matter a bean in the digital world either.

In fact digital information overload leading to digital deletion will be a marked improvement on throwing away analogue recorded information - digital landfills never fill up.

This story, "Digital universe drivel" was originally published by


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon