The phrase ‘Data Tsunami’ has been used by numerous authors in the last few months and it’s difficult to find another suitable analogy because what’s approaching is of such an increased order of magnitude that the IT industries continued expectations for data growth will be swamped in the next few years.
However impressive a spectacle a Tsunami is, it still wreaks havoc to those who are unprepared or believe they can tread water and simply float to the surface when the trouble has passed.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Telco industry where, to use another popular analogy, there is a perfect storm scenario of changes in technology, standards and customer behavior that is poised to strike in the coming months.
We have already seen in the last 10 years an increase in Mobile phone subscribers of over fivefold from 1 to 5.6 billion users worldwide, and remember that’s for a total world population of 7 billion this year. Mobile penetration has reached or exceeded 100 per cent in 97 economic regions, totaling almost four billion subscribers. Of these, 17 have penetration rates above 150 per cent!!!
Not only is the absolute number of mobile phones still on the increase but what we do with them now adds to the data flood. Although Smartphones represent only 13 percent of total global handsets in use today, they represent over 78 percent of total global handset traffic. In 2010, the typical smartphone generated 24 times more mobile data traffic (79 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone.
The Coda Research Consultancy predicts global smartphone sales to reach 2.5 billion over the 2010-2015 period, and also suggest that mobile Internet use via smartphones will increase 50 fold by the end of that period. The rise of the App means that 10.9 billion apps were downloaded in 2010 and is estimated to grow to 76.9 billion app downloads by 2014; a growth of 700% in 3 years. That’s over 10 Apps for every Man, Women and Child on the Planet, all generating data.
But it’s not just us humans that are going to be ‘connected’ and generating data. Machine to Machine communications is now a reality with the IPv6 standard allowing a far greater number of IP addresses to be available for everything from RFID chips to your humble fridge! For those of you who missed it, we’ve actually run out of IPv4 addresses to the extent the unused ones are selling for over $10 each. The number of new IPv6 addresses is however approximately 340 undecillion or 3.4× 1038, unlike the paltry number of IPv4 addresses of 232 (4,294,967,296). With the introduction of Smart metering and networks, GPS tracking of goods in transit and remote monitoring, you can bet that the amount of data transmitted is set to seriously increase.
And I’ve not even started on Social media! In just 5 years we have seen Twitter go from zero to over 200 million Tweets per day. In 7 years from Facebook launching to achieving over 800 million active members which means more than 2 billion posts are liked and commented on and on average, more than 250 million photos uploaded per day. If Facebook were a country based on population, it would be the third largest after China and India.
And this is a truly global phenomenon as new regions and markets have taken these communications methods to heart and now demand that their voices be heard and acted upon like never before.
But what does this all mean?
Data, Data, Data…. Not only lots of it, but in volumes and formats that few organisations currently need to manage let alone store or analyse. The value of this huge new asset is debatable but you can bet there will be nuggets of gold secreted somewhere there and you need to be able to store and analyse this data economically and effectively if you want any hope of extracting any value from it.
Even if you doubt the Analysts’ projections, this flood of Big Data will definitely happen and happen soon. Whether its 100 metres or 200 metres deep is a purely academic question, either way there’s no way you can touch the bottom!