Courtesy of Cisco, a skyscraper infographic about the dawning of the age of the zettabyte.
Cisco forecast for data traffic growth, 2010-2015, by region/country
The what? Each zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes. No? One exabyte = 1,000 petabytes. One petabyte = 1,000 terabytes. One terabyte (you may be starting to feel the ocean floor now) is 1,000 gigabytes. See, you can find your way to the shore now.
Cisco sees the movement towards the exabyte as an inevitable endpoint of the growth in video traffic online. Its analysis suggests that we'll have shifted into the zettabyte age by 2015: by then, it reckons,
the majority of global Internet traffic (61 percent) will be in some form of video—Internet video-to-PC, Internet video-to-TV, mobile video, et al.The "dawn of the Zettabyte era" will be an unprecedented online milestone that will occur in our lifetime.
Part of the problem of course is that it's almost impossible to wrap your head around the physical or temporal ramifications of these numbers. For example, from the Cisco blogpost: "A zettabyte is roughly 1000 exabytes. To place that amount of volume in more practical terms, an exabyte alone has the capacity to hold over 36,000 years worth of HD quality video…or stream the entire Netflix catalog more than 3,000 times. A zettabyte is equivalent to about 250 billion DVDs."
Oh, that's much easier - got it now.
This image shows how Cisco expects traffic to change over the next four years. Note how the US is the biggest user, but China is accelerating too. (You can play with the graphics yourself on the Cisco website.)
Of course - to put some perspective on it - at that point some of us may still be struggling with 2 megabit/s connections. The zettabyte era might pass us by. But here is what it looks like, from Cisco's point of view.
Zettabyte comprehension: the infographic by Cisco
How Big Is A Petabyte, Exabyte, Zettabyte, Or A Yottabyte?
This is an intuitive look at large data sizes By Julian Bunn in Globally Interconnected Object Databases.
0.1 bytes: A binary decision
1 byte: A single character
10 bytes: A single word
100 bytes: A telegram OR A punched card
Kilobyte (1000 Bytes)
1 Kilobyte: A very short story
2 Kilobytes: A Typewritten page
10 Kilobytes: An encyclopaedic page OR A deck of punched cards
50 Kilobytes: A compressed document image page
100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph
200 Kilobytes: A box of punched cards
500 Kilobytes: A very heavy box of punched cards
Megabyte (1 000 000 Bytes)
1 Megabyte: A small novel OR A 3.5 inch floppy disk
2 Megabytes: A high resolution photograph
5 Megabytes: The complete works of Shakespeare OR 30 seconds of TV-quality video
10 Megabytes: A minute of high-fidelity sound OR A digital chest X-ray
20 Megabytes: A box of floppy disks
50 Megabytes: A digital mammogram
100 Megabytes: 1 meter of shelved books OR A two-volume encyclopaedic book
200 Megabytes: A reel of 9-track tape OR An IBM 3480 cartridge tape
500 Megabytes: A CD-ROM OR The hard disk of a PC
Gigabyte (1 000 000 000 Bytes)
1 Gigabyte: A pickup truck filled with paper OR A symphony in high-fidelity sound OR A movie at TV quality
2 Gigabytes: 20 meters of shelved books OR A stack of 9-track tapes
5 Gigabytes: An 8mm Exabyte tape
20 Gigabytes: A good collection of the works of Beethoven OR 5 Exabyte tapes OR A VHS tape used for digital data
50 Gigabytes: A floor of books OR Hundreds of 9-track tapes
100 Gigabytes: A floor of academic journals OR A large ID-1 digital tape
200 Gigabytes: 50 Exabyte tapes
Terabyte (1 000 000 000 000 Bytes)
1 Terabyte: An automated tape robot OR All the X-ray films in a large technological hospital OR 50000 trees made into paper and printed OR Daily rate of EOS data (1998)
2 Terabytes: An academic research library OR A cabinet full of Exabyte tapes
10 Terabytes: The printed collection of the US Library of Congress
50 Terabytes: The contents of a large Mass Storage System
Petabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 Bytes)
1 Petabyte: 5 years of EOS data (at 46 mbps)
2 Petabytes: All US academic research libraries
20 Petabytes: Production of hard-disk drives in 1995
200 Petabytes: All printed material ORProduction of digital magnetic tape in 1995
Exabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 Bytes)
5 Exabytes: All words ever spoken by human beings.
The world's technological capacity to store information grew from 2.6 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 1986 to 15.8 in 1993, over 54.5 in 2000, and to 295 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2007. This is equivalent to less than one 730-MB CD-ROM per person in 1986 (539 MB per person), roughly 4 CD-ROM per person of 1993, 12 CD-ROM per person in the year 2000, and almost 61 CD-ROM per person in 2007. Piling up the imagined 404 billion CD-ROM from 2007 would create a stack from the earth to the moon and a quarter of this distance beyond (with 1.2 mm thickness per CD).
The world’s technological capacity to receive information through one-way broadcast networks was 432 exabytes of (optimally compressed) information in 1986, 715 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 1993, 1,200 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2000, and 1,900 in 2007.
According to the CSIRO, in the next decade, astronomers expect to be processing 10 petabytes of data every hour from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. The array is thus expected to generate approximately one exabyte every four days of operation. According to IBM, the new SKA telescope initiative will generate over an exabyte of data every day. IBM is designing hardware to process this information.
Zettabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 Bytes)
The world’s technological capacity to receive information through one-way broadcast networks was 0.432 zettabytes of (optimally compressed) information in 1986, 0.715 in 1993, 1.2 in 2000, and 1.9 (optimally compressed) zettabytes in 2007 (this is the informational equivalent to every person on earth receiving 174 newspapers per day).
According to International Data Corporation, the total amount of global data is expected to grow to 2.7 zettabytes during 2012. This is 48% up from 2011.
Mark Liberman calculated the storage requirements for all human speech ever spoken at 42 zettabytes if digitized as 16 kHz 16-bit audio. This was done in response to a popular expression that states "all words ever spoken by human beings" could be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data (see exabyte for details). Liberman did "freely confess that maybe the authors [of the exabyte estimate] were thinking about text."
Research from the University of Southern California reports that in 2007, humankind successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS.
Research from the University of California, San Diego reports that in 2008, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information.
Internet Traffic to Reach 1.3 Zettabytes by 2016
Yottabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 Bytes)