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Innovation

Storage in the iCloud & post-PC era

Apple's post-PC era will create demand for more storage, not less. And different kinds of storage, as well as great opportunities for Apple to improve our online lives.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor on

Apple's post-PC era will create demand for more storage, not less. Why? Because easy replication - which is what iCloud is all about - creates its own demand.

But that storage will look very different: the home media server will find a mass-market; for the few with PCs our backup requirements will be minimal; and, finally, cloud-based de-duplication will reduce bandwidth and storage requirements.

Easy replication Easy replication creates its own demand as Xerox showed back in the 60s with the advent of fast photocopying. We've been drowning in paper ever since.

The iCloud system will make it easy to synchronize music collections between PCs, Macs and I devices. iCloud and Airdrop will also simplify synchronizing and distributing a variety of other content, including document versions, contacts, e-mail and other content.

The net effect: many more gigabytes of replicated data across cheaper and more capacious mobile devices. And you won't even have to think about it - the best news yet for storage manufacturers.

Flash, or newer nonvolatile storage - such as ReRAM - will continue to win. And, as the replication of data proceeds, the convenience of having more capacity will continue to rise.

Backup With all this replication the need for backup will decline. Will backup disappear? No. But my need to back up a couple hundred gigabytes of music and documents and applications will.

But there's more. Apple's Music Match is a specialized form of de-duplication. What if that technology were applied to other commonly replicated content, such as commercial e-mail, spam, chain letters, YouTube videos and web content?

Apple's cloud could store millions of these replicated documents - storing only changes, such as addresses - to download only when and if you wanted to see them.

Home media server The unspoken assumption about all this auto magic synchronization and copying is that all devices have the capacity to maintain all the synchronized content. But for many this will not be the case.

For example, I have 200 GB of music and MPEG video that I would like to have on all my mobile devices. But my iPhone is 32 GB and my iPad2 is 64 GB.

This is where an iCloud aware media server would make sense. The media server would synchronize with the cloud, enable me to use all of my content at home, and and allow me to choose the content I wanted on each mobile device without the use of a PC.

The Storage Bits take All new technologies have unintended consequences. As Steve Jobs said the cloud is not just a big hard drive in the sky.

The post-PC era is real. The convergence of communications, computing and content is upon us.

The impact on data storage technologies, markets and demand will be profound. Maintaining persistent data is one of the hardest problems in computing. Making it invisible to consumers will drive more demand - and creative uses - than we've ever seen before.

Comments welcome, of course.

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