Barney's Rubble

Limits of Unlimited Storage

The capability is there but, according to Doug, the tools are lacking.

In the early '90s, I found desktop video. With it, you could digitize clips and move your scenes around. Say goodbye to cutting and splicing.

Taken to the extremes, the idea was staggering. What if you could digitize everything that came over your cable TV? Then you could see any show anytime.

This was years before DVRs, which came out nearly 10 years later. Did I think of it first? Surely not. But I hadn't heard anyone else talk about it. Not wanting to take false credit, I learned that right after the VCR came about in 1956, smarter folks than I contemplated a digital version -- two-dozen years before my brilliant idea. Duh!

Nowadays storage is crazy cheap, whether cloud or in-house. The hardware is nearly free, but using it is another matter. Here's an experiment: Look at a storage vendor's software line and try to make sense of it. Tough. The market is more complex than need be.

Now try to use all this stuff. Sometimes you do a backup and it chokes on the previous archive. The software isn't always smart enough to know all that data is a previous backup from the same client, and says you have no room. And it can't fix it.

How many times do you do a full backup, crash and then can't restore? How do you even navigate all the archives? I reckon that depends on your software and procedures, both of which must be perfect.

The cloud, being managed by something that only exists to manage data, seems simpler. I've tried to store and retrieve cloud files. Sometimes it's easy; other times the procedure is scarier than Boris Karloff. And some free services are a worse tease than Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." You store some data for free, then for the big stuff you have to pay. Later on you try and get the file, and you've forgotten the login and password, or the darn service has gone down.

Back to the DVR. What if we really could digitize everything? We'd have a complete record of our lives, perhaps one that could digitally replace a static grave marker.

As a teen in the '70s, I imagined a grave marker like a jukebox, where you could flip through photos and writing. With digital everything I started to think of a kiosk that contains my entire life. Like the DVR, years after it hit me companies had started making it -- or at least a semblance of it. Did I think of it first? Surely not. I just hadn't heard anyone else talk about it.

Now we just have to make this amazing world of storage work as advertised.

What would you do with virtually unlimited storage? Tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Fri, Jul 20, 2012 csdkw

Hierarchical storage for dvr's primary storage offloaded to hot-swappable auxiliary drives (e-sata,usb,flash) to free up space / provide infinite space. Primary storage is high quality for durability/constant use. Auxiliary storage needn't be, cutting down on cost, etc. Tivo & others need to go this route rather than the continuous shell game of storage capacity improvements.

Fri, May 4, 2012 Terry Calgary Canada

The data growth we are seeing in the industry is just as John has mentioned, complete and utter garbage. This data growth is relational to the quality of development work being turned out these days. Storage is cheap, so rather than write your application to be efficient, just allow it to leave garbage behind. Then when needed we can either add more space or clean up the crap. As we move into this age of increasingly fast CPUs and increasingly cheap storage, we are also seeing an increasingly poor quality of work as a result. Pretty much anyone can become an IT dev these days, resulting in less than stellar app developers. On top of this the major players have gotten together and come up with a strategy to future proof everyone's industry. It's a vicious circle and the customer is caught in the middle.

Wed, May 2, 2012 John Canberra Australia

Rubbish (or “trash” if you are in the USA) will expand to fill the available space. Increasing the amount of storage available to the user will result in that user keeping more copies of that letter from “Aunty Madge” but little of any significant value. This will occur because of the difficulty in identifying duplicated files that might have been stored in a number of locations on a device or network and the tendency to not worry about something if it is not causing immediate problems. The IT industry’s solution to this is to provide upgrades to bigger and better computers and more storage, allowing you to put off the day that you go and “sort it out” until you don’t even remember who “Aunty Madge” is (or alternatively your children have to trawl through all of your “stuff” after you die). Wouldn’t it be nice if the IT industry came out with a piece of software that compared all data on a device or network and flagged duplicates for your attention (it isn’t hard – just list all of the files in a temporary table, hash each of them to say a 20-character “sum” and then directly compare those with identical “sums”)? Oh – yes – that would mean customers wouldn’t have to buy upgrades to bigger and better computers and more storage, wouldn’t it.

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