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Scott Drummonds on Virtualization

9,570,000,000,000,000,000,000 Bytes

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In 2008, the year before I left VMware, I was invited to help measure the amount of information being enterprise computers processed in the entire year.  My invitation came from Dr. James Short of the University of California, San Diego, who was on the team leading this project.  The team called their project “How Much Information?” (HMI).  And Dr. Short, or Jim, wanted me to provide comment on a small portion of the systems that process information: enterprise hardware.

The discussions at the conference I attended in 2008 were incredibly broad.  From enterprise hardware to unreleased two-dimensional UPC codes to game consoles to mobile phones.  But the work I contributed two only aimed to provide one piece to the puzzle of worldwide information processing: the amount of data processed by enterprise hardware in 2008.

I joined the HMI team for a conference they hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008.  Work continued after I left, of course, and my place was taken by VMware’s Bruce Herndon, who runs the VMmark team.  With years of experience in enterprise benchmarking, Bruce was a much better choice than I to help quantify information processing.  And Jim recently restated to me his thanks to VMware and Bruce for their continued help on this project.

Jim recently shared with me the public report on enterprise server information from 2008,which was completed earlier this year.  Enterprise processing–which does not include game consoles, mobile phones, desktop computers, notebooks, tablets, etc.–obviously represents only a fraction of the world’s ongoing information processing.  Yet the amount of information that enterprise hardware alone processed in 2008 is staggering.

That number is 9.57 zettabytes.  That’s almost 10 to the 22nd power.  Or, as this entry’s title expands, 9,570,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.  Unbelievable.

The executive summary from HMI’s 2008 “Report on Enterprise Server Information”  includes some fun statistics.  And remember, these numbers apply only to the information processed by enterprise hardware:

  • Servers process 12 GB of data for each worker in the world daily.  How much email are you sending?
  • Two-thirds of the world’s information was processed by “low end” hardware, costing $25,000 or less.  It is an x86 world after all, isn’t it?
  • About half of the information processing is attributed to transaction processing (invoicing, paying bills, checking stocks, etc.) and the other half is attributed to web content and office applications.
  • Web services and business applications doubled their performance-per-cost every 1.5 years.  But enterprise servers only doubled their information processing every two years.  Enterprises are getting more value out of their processed information every year.
  • High-end computers are doubling performance-per-cost and raw performance every four years, or half the pace of low-end computers.  It is certainly an x86 world.

The full HMI paper linked above is rich with information, which I will be processing on own various systems in the coming weeks.  I encourage you to check it out to understand the scale of data that pulses through our hardware every day.  And if you are really into the HMI project, read about an upcoming conference continuing this research that might benefit from your participation.

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