You're probably wondering why there is any reason for a blog focused on datacenter issues is talking about the iPad. And frankly, the iPad was just about the last thing I expected to find myself writing about. But a recent conversation with some SMB clients who use cloud storage, coupled with all of the recent iPad coverage, actually brought up a datacenter concern that makes sense.
I have a lot of friends and clients who are taking advantage of the relatively inexpensive backup and storage technologies that are currently available from cloud service providers.
The clients are primarily business that fall into the small to medium size SMB space, while the friends are people who are looking for effective services for their sole proprietorship businesses.
In both cases they are taking advantage of the price and availability that cloud storage offers them, as well as inexpensive ISPs who offer low-priced web hosting with unlimited storage and bandwidth for very low prices.
So what does this have to do with the iPad? Well, if one of the major uses of the iPad will be as media devices, with users doing everything from reading books to watching movies, my first thought is where are the users going to store all that media content?
The easy answer is "Wherever Apple (and iTunes) tells them to" but I already know quite a few people who work around the way that iTunes stores media in order to utilize their media collection the way they want to, not the way Apple wants them to.
So what's to stop them from using their online storage to house, and stream, their media collection? It seems like a fairly simple thing to put everything from music to movies on your online storage, then connect to them from your iPad and play the media there. Even if not in a true streaming format, the media stored at the host will still need to be downloaded to the iPad.
I wanted to make sure that my technical understanding of this was correct, so I took a couple of videos from my media server, re-encoded them as mp4 files, and uploaded them to one of my ISPs. This particular ISP gives me unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth for under $100 a year.
So after putting the media online, I took myself out to my favorite breakfast joint, which happens to offer open WiFi access (though I could have connected over 3G). Now granted, I don't have an iPad (nor is one on the horizon for me) but I do have an iPhone, so I opened up Safari, entered the simplified URL to one of the videos I uploaded, and started watching a feature film while enjoying my meal.
Now multiply that by even a small percentage of iPad (or any other competing mobile device) users. People want their media anywhere they need to access it, so using the cloud to store it makes perfect sense. As more devices become available that let users access their media from anywhere begin to appear, there will be an additional load, in storage and bandwidth, on the providers of cloud sites offering this easy availability.
This means that their datacenters will need to deal with increased storage requirements, increased bandwidth utilization, greater demands on their own backup facilities, and an overall increase in operational costs, which will need to be passed on to their consumers, likely of all types, not just the percentage that uses their facility in this way.
And before you complain that doing this requires a fair amount of technical skill on the part of the end-user, think about this;
How long will it be before I can say "there's an app for that."