Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Prediction: First Consumer Petabyte Hard Drive?

The first hard drive I owned came with my Amiga 1200, circa 1990. It held 40 megabytes of data, and I believe it was a $500 option. Yes, I said option. The computer happily ran on floppy disks alone, if you so desired. You had to load the OS off of floppy first, then load your programs from other disks. The A1200 came with 2MB of ram, but I loaded it up with an additional 16MB of RAM, costing a healthy $800. That is just sick.

Back to the subject of hard drives. Here is a rough time line for the consumer hard drive. By "consumer", I mean something that fits in a desktop PC form factor that is in the price range for an average consumer.

1980 5MB ~$1,000.00
1992 1GB ~$1,000.00 (1 gigabyte ~ 1000 megabyte)
2007 1TB ~$300.00 (1 terabyte ~ 1000 gigabyte, or 1 million megabyte)
???? 1PB ???? (1 petabyte ~ 1000 terabyte, or 1 million gigabyte)
???? 1EB ???? (1 exabyte ~ 1000 petabyte, or 1 million terabyte)
???? 1ZB ???? (1 zetabyte ~ 1000 exabyte, or 1 million petabyte)
???? 1YB ???? (1 yottabyte ~ 1000 zetabyte, or 1 million exabyte)

The timeline between 5MB and 1GB drives was 12 years.
The timeline between 1GB and 1TB drives was 15 years.
Notice the price drop!

So let's hear the predictions. When will the first consumer-ready petabyte drive be available, and what will the average cost be? How aboute exabyte? Zetabyte? Yottabyte?

A Yottabyte is a tough one to grasp. That is ONE TRILLION terabytes. Do you think storage space, or personal computing as we know it, will end at some point, long before these outrageous sizes are a reality?

If history is any indication, the petabyte drive should arrive in 12-15 years, and average $300 or less. I think it will much sooner, cut that time down to about 8 years. The $300 price is probably close.

I also think solid-state disk storage will become the norm, seeing hard drive platters die like the video tape did.