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Storage is already confusing and now its shrinking

Coping with existing server farms is quite a challenge for some customers and the technology is emerging that will squeeze even more out of smaller spaces leading Nick Booth

You can tell you’re getting old in IT when you think machines have shrunk too far. My first “stop the merry go round” feelings of inadequacy started with the invention of a laptop that was lighter than a suitcase. That’s when I went from ‘what will they  think of next?’ to ‘what will they think of next!!??’

So you can imagine how insecure the scientists at the University of Manchester have made me feel, with their new molecule-sized data storage technology breakthrough. A research team led by Dr David Mills and Dr Nicholas Chilton has proved that magnetic hysteresis, a memory effect that is a prerequisite of any data storage, is possible in individual molecules at -213 °C.

Jumping straight to the money shot, the bottom line is that this creates huge potential for molecular data storage. Now they can pack over 200 terabits of data into a square inch, which makes Apple's latest iPhone 7 look like Charles Babbage’s Difference Machine.

Given the rapid pace of change in IT, we can probably expect the first products to hit the street next week.

Google has 15 data centres around the world, each with around 2.5 million servers, all of which need to consume a trillion fossils an hour just to fuel the company’s important privacy invasion business model. How much big data are they going to need when storage technology has 100 times the data density?

News of this latest disruptive server technology breakthrough comes in the wake of a report that suggests the server sector is already too complicated. According to 451 Research a large majority of companies are struggling to find people with the requisite skills. Its report Voice of the Enterprise: Servers and Converged Infrastructure says that finding people who can support any business using either traditional servers or converged infrastructure is increasingly difficult. I’m not surprised: if you go on holiday, by the time you come back your job skills have become obsolete. Who’d want to commit themselves under those circumstances?

With the rise of cloud migration, 451 Research analysts expect that the worldwide pool of dedicated server administrators will decline. Seven out of ten companies say that candidates lack skills and experience.

Small wonder then, that many companies are giving up on the private cloud. Even though the likes of AWS, Google and Azure might possibly evolve to become even more proprietorial than IBM in the bad old days, many enterprises can’t be bothered with the agony of keeping up with the rapid pace of technical change. They’d rather risk vendor lock in than have to deal with recruitment consultants and uppity IT contractors. (At least AWS will invite you to a conference every now and then and ply you with drinks. All recruitment companies do is steal your time and hijack your budgets).

Even OpenStack is becoming too complicated to keep up with, with its mythical cost benefits proving to be unachievable. The high cost of labour to support OpenStack means 451 Research doesn’t regard it as a better option than the relatively mature commercial offerings.

“You’re not likely to achieve high labour efficiency for managing your own private cloud,” says Owen Rogers, research director for 451 Research’s Digital Economics Unit. “Just go for the likes of VMware or Microsoft instead of OpenStack if cost is your primary concern. OpenStack engineers are so expensive that if the cloud is not efficiently managed, there’s a good chance it’ll be more expensive than using a commercial offering.”

I’d interpret that to mean, stop struggling and give in. I gave up years ago!

This was last published in August 2017

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