As a Data Deluge Grows, Companies Rethink Storage

As a Data Deluge Grows, Companies Rethink Storage

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — John Hayes, cleareyed and wild-haired, stood before his silent creation. Big as a slim refrigerator, it held 16 petabytes of data, roughly equal to 16 billion thick books.

“People are going to have to think about things to put into this,” he said, surrounded by the clutter of his office at a Silicon Valley company called Pure Storage. “But that won’t take long — there’s a demand for data that nobody was ready for.”

Each month, the world’s one billion cellphones throw out 18 exabytes of data, equal to 1,100 of Mr. Hayes’s boxes. There are also millions of sensors in things ranging from cars and appliances to personal fitness trackers and cameras.

IBM estimates that by 2020 we will have 44 zettabytes — the thousandfold number next up from exabytes — generated by all those devices. It is so much information that Big Blue is staking its future on so-called machine learning and artificial intelligence, two kinds of pattern-finding software built to cope with all that information.

Making storage products has long been a major part of the tech industry. It has also been one of the dullest, with little in the way of innovation. Now the surge in data is leading both start-ups and some of tech’s biggest companies to rethink how they approach the problem.

Pure, co-founded by Mr. Hayes, a 38-year-old former video karaoke engineer, is one of several companies trying new approaches.

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