Why storage? Human civilization is in a transition from the analog and physical to the digital and intangible. But the basis of any civilization is the storage of its culture.
In the past that storage was in books and human memory, in statues and artwork, in musical compositions and the physical design of our built environment. Now, and even more so in the future, our culture relies on the storage of ones and zeros on media and with supporting software that will be lucky to exceed 1% of the life of a well-printed book.
This is the challenge of storage for a digital civilization. And that is why I am thankful for the improvements that storage is achieving in the 21st century. Here's my top 5, in no particular order:
Data encryption. Because digital data is easy to copy and share, we need encryption to keep what is ours, ours alone. The American intelligence community doesn't like it, but if they didn't have a long history of ignoring legalities - like the Constitution - and then lying about it, maybe Americans would trust them more.
The thousand year disc. The M-disc uses a mineral layer to create an extremely tough and long-life DVD and, now, 25GB and 100GB Blu-ray discs. As far as I know this is the only digital media with a lifespan as good as a well produced book.
Scale-out object storage. Objects are files that can be easily accessed from multiple servers, making them ideal for access from hundreds or thousands of nodes. The fastest growing kind of storage for the last decade, it powers all the big cloud services.
Advanced archive storage. As we collect and store more information, archiving - not backup - becomes the critical success factor. Expect to see much innovation in archiving over the next decade as capacity needs skyrocket.
Solid-state storage. While disk drives aren't going away, solid-state storage has revolutionized mobile device and enterprise storage. SATA SSDs are transitional devices - much better options are arriving soon, and some are already here.
The Storage Bits take
My first computer storage device was a Panasonic cassette recorder for a 1978 Apple II, because a single 114KB floppy drive cost almost as much as the computer. My first hard drive equipped computer - a DEC Pro 350 - had the original Seagate 5MB 5.25" disk.
In the early 90s I spent $400 for a 10MB Compact Flash card for an HP Omnibook 300 so I could have 9 hours of life - on an 8 W/hr battery! In the early 00s I spent over $100 on a 128MB USB thumb drive that was so much better than sneaker net.
Now I have over 25TB of capacity, including around 2TB of flash. Hard drives can now be had for less than $25/TB, while USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt have dramatically improved data rates.
Truly, storage users have much to be thankful for.
Comments welcome, as always.