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Wednesday, 16 March 2011 13:42

Data doubles daily a decade hence


Digital information stored in corporations, on the public internet and on home computers is doubling every month. And if an increase of 2,048 fold in a year seems high, there are some who believe the amount of digital information will double each day by the end of the decade as people continue to use mobile devices to collect audio and video data.

On a visit to Sydney this week, Tom Jenkins, executive chairman and chief strategy officer of Canada based content management specialist Open Text, said that organisations need to prepare for an entirely new era of data deluge.

He said that at present the public internet stored less than 1 percent of the global digital data stores.

To prove the point he noted the documentation associated with an Airbus or Boeing passenger jet.  'If you were to print out the technical manual that is the description and DNA of that jet it prints out two times the volume of that jet because there are more than a million pieces in it and what most people don't appreciate is every jet is absolutely unique because you have a multiplicity of sub contractors.

'You have fleet of 5,000 of them and you get a feel for the enormity of the information. '

Mr Jenkins said that the scale of the private web developed by companies and government was really driving the amount of data being stored. While cheap storage had allowed companies to simply hoard more and more information, organisations were struggling to manage and find that information in a timely and economic fashion - and starting to come up against limits in terms of running the data centres to host it.

That was one of the reasons Mr Jenkins believed cloud based computing and storage would be adopted rapidly. He has just published a book called Managing Content in the Cloud, and is on a regional book tour.

Why will data double daily? Read on

The information storage issue will get worse before it gets better he warned however. 'We are on the cusp of the multimedia aspects of it - we will start using mobiles and iPads and start using the camera.

'And we are going to go from typing text to just talking again. We went with written (data) because of the limitations of technology - we will go back to our oral traditions as we now have the technology to talk to each other that allows us to talk to each other across boundaries.'

Mr Jenkins said this was leading to an explosion in the amount of data being stored. 'Last year the web went from doubling every year to doubling every month now.  That is 2 to the power 12 - 2048 (fold) each year.

'Most pundits are now predicting that by the end of this decade the information will double every day. If you don't have these systems in place they will overwhelm you.'

While he acknowledged that the basic physics associated with power and spectrum did point to challenges for unchecked data growth in perpetuity - 'We all know intuitively there is a finite asymptotic limit to everything' - he wasn't expecting that to occur in his lifetime.

Instead he expected nascent technologies such as quantum computing, where data is stored at a sub atomic level, to deliver new ways to store even more information.

Data and content management has underpinned the development of Open Text, now 20 years old with annual revenues of $US912 million. In Australia and New Zealand the company employs just over 100 people and has a range of clients in Federal and State government, and private enterprise including Challenger Financial Services, Rio Tinto and Ten Network.

The company has grown partly by acquisition, partly organically. Earlier this month it bought UK based mobile data company weComm to add to a string of recent acquisitions including Metastorm, StreamServe, Nstein Technologies and Vignette.

According to Mr Jenkins; 'Some things you can do by acquisition and some things you can't - the magic is in the mix. Tech companies that are solely 'not invented here' syndrome are left to the vagaries of their internal research and development team  - but companies that only buy companies to acquire their IP have no core soul.

'Over the past five years we have spent $C1 billion on acquisitions and $C1 billion on internal development so we have really hedged our bets. We think that balances the best investment with the best innovation.'

While the company is mostly interested in acquiring product IP, it has also invested in buying up companies for their intellectual capital 'to get a team of developers who have spent a decade working in an area,' he explained.

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