The 16 TB RAM PC: when?

The next version of Mac OS X will address 16 TB of RAM. Who will ever have 16 TB - 16,000 GB - of RAM on a home computer?
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

The next version of Mac OS X will address 16 TB of RAM. Who will ever have 16 TB - 16,000 GB - of RAM on a home computer? If the past is any guide, some of us will be using 16 TB PCs in 2025.

RAM is the purest expression of Moore's Law The definition of Moore's Law is "roughly double the number of transistors every 24 months."

My 1st computer: 4k or 16k? My first computer - bought 30 years ago - was the original Apple ][. The big choice was the amount of RAM. As befits a future storage geek, I splurged for 16K of RAM, handy if you wanted to use floating point BASIC.

Fast forward Earlier this week I ordered another 4 GB RAM to bring the quad-core Pro up to 8 GB of RAM, hoping to speed up video compression and transcoding. Not to mention bragging rights.

From 16 KB to 8 GB: that's 5,000x in 30 years. That's somewhere between a 4x and 5x increase every 5 years - roughly in line with Moore's Law. 2x every 2 years is 4x every 4 years.

It is probably on the low side because I spent a lot more for RAM then than I do today.

Address space consumption One of my all-time favorite storage papers, by the late, great Jim Gray and Preshant Shenoy, Rules of Thumb in Data Engineering, observes that we use another bit of address space every 18 months.

Let's apply that empirical rule to my Mac.

2^33 = 8 GB 2^44 = 16 TB

That's 11 bits of address space which should take, roughly, 17 years to "consume." That means that in 2025 I'll be sitting down to a 16 TB Mac - or something better if it comes along - and editing my 3D 8k x 8k virtual world movie. Or something.

But what about you? Let's say you have a notebook with 1 GB RAM and you are happy with it. That's 30 bits of address space. So for you to consume another 14 bits of address space will take 21 years. So you won't need a 16 TB notebook until 2029.

Start saving now.

The Storage Bits take Even the top chip technologists can't see beyond 10 years, so we have no idea if Moore's law will continue to hold until 2025. It may not be physically possible to build 4 TB DIMMs - or whatever they are then - in 2025.

But if it is, you'll have a really nice PC.

Comments welcome, of course. I'm off to the Seattle Conference on Scalability - sponsored by Google - today. Hope to see some good, storage consuming, stuff there.

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