Tag Archives: UGC

The Expanding (Digital) Universe: Visualizing How BIG a Zettabyte Really Is

Note: This post was originally published at Oulixeus Consulting

A lot of news articles recently (Google News currently shows 1,060 articles) are citing the annual EMC-IDC Digital Universe studies of the massive growth of the digital universe through 2020. If you have not read the study, it indicates that the digital universe is now doubling every two years and will grow 44-fold 50-fold now 55-fold from 0.8 Zettabytes (ZB) of data in 2009 to 35 40 now 44 Zettabytes in 2020. (Every year IDC has revised the growth curve upward by several Zettabytes.)

Usually these articles show a diagram such as this:


This type of diagram is great at showing how much 44-fold growth is. However it really does not convey how big a Zettabyte really is—and how much data we will be swimming (or drowning in) by 2020.

A Zettabyte (ZB) is really, really big – in terms of today’s information systems. It is not a capacity that people encounter every day. It’s not even in Microsoft Office’s spell-checker, Word “recommended” that I meant to type “Petabyte” instead 😉

The Raw Definition: How big is a Zettabyte?

A Computer Scientist will tell you that 1 Zettabyte is 270 bytes. That does not sound very big to a person who does not usually visualize think in exponential or scientific notation—especially given that a one-Terabyte (1 TB) solid state drive has a capacity to store 240 bytes.

Wikipedia describes a ZB (in decimal math) as one-sextillion bytes. While this sounds large, it is a hard to visualize. It is easier to visualize 1 ZB (and 44 ZBs) in relation to things we use everyday.

Visualizing Zettabytes in Units of Smartphones

The most popular new smartphones today have 32 Gigabytes (GB) or 32 x 230 bytes of capacity. To get 1 ZB you would have to fill 34,359,738,368 (34.4 billion) smartphones to capacity. If you put 34.4 billion Samsung S5’s end-to-end (length-wise) you would circle the Earth 121.8 times:

Click to see a higher resolution image and the dot that represents Earth to-scale vs. the line

You can actually circumnavigate Jupiter almost 11 times—but that is not obvious to visualize.

The number of bytes in 44 Zettabytes is a number too large for Microsoft Excel to compute correctly. (The number you will get is so large that Excel will cut off seven digits of accuracy–read that as a potential rounding error up to one million bytes). Assuming that Moore’s Law will allow us to double the capacity of smartphones three times between now and 2020, it would take 188,978,561,024 (188+ trillion) smartphones to store 44 ZB of data. Placing these end-to-end- would circumnavigate the world over nearly 670 times.

This is too hard to visualize, so lets look at it another way. You could tile the entire City of New York two times over (and the Bronx and Manhattan three times over) with smartphones filled to capacity with data to store 44 ZBs. That’s a big Data Center!

Amount of Smartphones (with 2020 tech) you would need to store 44 ZB (click for higher resolution)

This number also represents 25 smartphones per person for the entire population of the planet. Imagine the challenge of managing data spread out across that many smartphones.

Next Page: Visualizing Zettabytes in Units of Facebook

Social Networks for Business Tip #8: Treat Your Community Like a Garden

I have found ten common tips that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my eighth tip in this series. There will be 10 total posts; each with a particular theme. They are intended to be read in the order presented, building upon each other…


Communities are Ecosystems

180px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17The largest difference between “Web 2.0” enterprise social media communities and “Web 1.0” enterprise web sites is based on content. Traditional web sites are built around relatively static content created in accordance with Corporate Communications, Legal and Public Relations guidelines. On the other hand, social media communities evolve around user-generated content, i.e., content dynamically created, edited and critiqued by external groups like customers, employees and partners. How this content (and the community) evolves is subject to many conditions outside of the enterprise’s control, ranging from entry of a hostile individual to formation of competing and cooperative groups. In essence social media communities are living ecosystems.

What Happens When You Don’t Manage Your Ecosystem

When you don’t manage your community as an ecosystem, it can quickly evolve in many ways into something very different that what you intended to support your enterprise:

1. Die-off Due to Lack of Resources

If your community does not reach a critical mass of content to foster participation and collaboration it will simply die off due to inactivity. Members will simply not have enough content to make it worth their time to return or inspire them to contribute.

The way to avoid this is to seed you community with compelling, inspiring content. An enterprise community that does a great job of this is American Express’ OPEN Forum. They have partnered with over two dozen expert contributors to provide valuable content for their community:

2. Die-off Due to Lack of Population Diversity


If your community does not have a critical mass of members, it will not generate enough connections and interactions to make it self-sustaining. Members will not form relationships that encourage them to return or foster the collaboration required to create community-unique new content.

The way to avoid this is to nurture development of your membership. First advertise the existence of the community across every channel you have. Second, monitor the results, learning what works and what doesn’t. Finally, make this a continuous improvement process to sustain your membership. An enterprise community that does a great job of this is Men’s Health Belly-off Community. If you don’t believe me just pay attention to the magazine covers the next time you are in the checkout line:


3. Take-over By Encroaching Elements

If you do not put the proper safeguards in place, groups of individuals can essentially “hijack” your community by creating content that is counter to your mission and bringing in members to feed on this to make it the dominant material of you community. At best, this will drive out those members you are trying to attract; at worse it will damage your brand.

The way to avoid this is to put controls in place to essentially prune you community of undesired content and behavior (these controls are complex enough that discussion of them will be the subject my next tip, “Create a Safe Environment.”) Someone who did this well was AOL with its fostering of the concept of safe online communities in the 1990s. A recent example of someone else who did not can be found by clicking on the image below:


The Take-away: Treat Your Community Like a Garden

Gardens – from English Botanical to Japanese Contemplative to Home Vegetable – serve as fine examples of tending an ecosystem to produce highly desirable results. Apply the same techniques you would use to manage a successful garden that you would to produce a great business community: