data center researchWith no end in sight to the growing volumes of digital data being generated around the world, IDC decided to study where, and how, all that data is being stored. In the resulting report, “Where in the World is Storage: A Look at Byte Density Across the Globe,” IDC also forecasts how the geography of digital data storage will shift in coming years and posits how that may reflect a shift in geopolitical, economic and social conditions over the next five years.

Installed raw digital data storage capacity, or byte density, will rise from 2,596 exabytes (EB) in 2012 to “a staggering 7,235 EB in 2017,” according to an IDC press release. Storing and organizing this massive increase in digital data is prompting a shift in storage media. Low-cost tape and optical storage solutions for long-term archiving and content delivery are being displaced as businesses place more data online and as consumers stream and store more data from and in the cloud,” IDC notes.

Back in 2000, North America accounted for 40% of worldwide digital data storage. Western Europe accounted for 27% and the Asia-Pacific region 24%. That’s going to shift dramatically, according to IDC, which forecasts that in 2017 North America will account for 24% of digital data storage, Western Europe 20% and the Asia-Pacific 38%.

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According to IDC, more raw digital data storage capacity exists in the U.S. than in any other of the 48 countries surveyed. That was true in 2000, 2005 and 2012. Japan ranked second in 200 but fell back to third as of 2005 and fourth by 2012. Moving ahead into second position in 2005 was the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which held on to that position as of last year. Germany supplanted Japan for the third spot in 2012, while the U.K. ranked fifth across the entire period.

At 2,331 GB, Switzerland has more raw digital data storage capacity per capita than any other nation surveyed as of 2012. Denmark (2,095 GB), Norway (2,031 GB), Hong Kong (2,024 GB), and the U.S. (1,977 GB) followed.

IDC also highlights a shift back to dominance for enterprise data. The rise of the PC and distributed computing has seen more and more digital data being stored on PCs, and that will continue to grow out to 2017.

The share of digital data stored and used for “Entertainment/Other” purposes will shrink dramatically. In contrast, the sheer volume of mobile devices and rapidly growing volumes of mobile data, along with growing social media, will make mobile devices and cloud storage significant in terms of global storage volumes.

Though it won’t grow nearly as rapidly as data stored on PCs, IDC sees a resurgence in the value of enterprise data along with growing volumes. “The proliferation of mobile devices, cloud, and social turns tide of shrinking enterprise share of worldwide installed bytes – resurgence begins,” IDC comments in an accompanying infographic.

The capacity of organizations, and nations, to store, organize and capitalize on the ever growing volumes of digital data will be of great import economically, politically, socially and environmentally, IDC points out.

“The incessant requests for data coming from billions of mobile devices around the world demand that data be centralized and available at all times. On top of this, each country differs on how prepared it is to capitalize on the value of its own strategic data based on its raw installed base of storage, especially enterprise storage, which continues to grow in strategic importance,” according to IDC.

“Technology is a moving target, but the desire to store more data is insatiable,” commented IDC group vice president, Storage, Semiconductors, Security, GRC, and Pricing David Reinsel.

“IT managers, and even government officials, should view data as a precious resource like water, oil, or gold. Increasingly, data will be critical to govern and grow businesses, it will be mined for hidden nuggets of strategic insight using analytics, and it will be traded and sold, just like other commodities.

“Businesses must be aware of these big data/analytic discoveries because they will drive optimization within existing businesses, offer new vectors of growth for mature businesses, and birth new businesses altogether. In addition, these discoveries will drive new sources of revenue for those that own the data.”

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