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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.

Bytes(8 bits)

Kilobyte (1000 bytes)

Megabyte (1 000 000 bytes)

Gigabyte (1 000 000 000 bytes)

Terabyte (1 000 000 000 000 bytes)

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 OR Production of digital magnetic tape in 1995

Exabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

  • 5 Exabytes: All words ever spoken by human beings.
  • From wikipedia:
    • 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.[11] 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)

  • From wikipedia:
    • 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).[9][10]
    • 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.[11]
    • 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."[12]
    • 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.[13]
    • 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)

Xenottabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

Shilentnobyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

Domegemegrottebyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

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Reader Comments (88)

500 Megabytes: A CD-ROM OR The hard disk of a PC

I take it this list is from 1994.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeo

Here's another measurement for 3 Megabytes = Length of Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterahmet alp balkan

Leo, it's from 1997. I had more text describing the timing but for some reason it messed up the RSS feed so I just removed all the nonessentials. I also added some more modern stats from wikipedia for some of the larger values.

September 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterTodd Hoff

Fail right out of the blocks. 0.1 bytes is not "a binary decision". 1 bit is a binary decision. 0.1 bytes = 0.8 bits (8 bits in a byte x 0.1 = 0.8 bits).

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick

yeah but ...
most of the information being transmitted today is redundant. ain't no optimal compression going on and almost all of it is just copies of something somewhere else. it all compresses down to something smaller than google trends.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereo

Nobody will speak Domegemegrottebyte. They will create nicknames, like DB (not Database), DmB, D16e, or something related to 1e33 (10^33 bytes).

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSony Santos

How can a short novel be one Megabyte and all the works of Shakespeare be only five Megabytes?

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee Jensen

great! there are so many zero following 1.
I just curios, what about how small is the number below 0? sorry if OOT

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrans Bahasa

I bet Apple is thinking of fitting half a Domegemegrottebyte into the iPad 20 and a full Domegemegrottebyte in the iPhone 50..

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterQu Terry

How did you manage to find a webpage from 1997? That alone is an achievement.

It's a funny list though. Especially, the use of "punched cards" as an intuitive measure of data. :)
Not to mention "a very heavy box of punched cards".

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheli

Silentobyte = 0 bits

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDocB

Majorly wrong!
Well the descriptors sounds reasonable, but the numbers are in base 10 and not base 2.
1 byte is 8 bits,
1 kilobyte is 1024 bytes,
1 megabyte is 1024 kilobytes,
1 gigabyte is 1024 megabytes,
1 terabyte is 1024 gigabytes,
etc, etc...

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Adam, you're the one who is wrong. 1000 bytes is a kilobyte.

1024 bytes is a "kibibyte", at least since 1998 or so. I can understand the mistake though, if you are old and haven't really been keeping up with the news. A lot of people became programmers in the early 90s and kept the bad prefixes our forefathers invented. Those people in the past didn't really understand how SI units work.

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrejkaz

"0.1 bytes: A binary decision"

How the heck are you able to take a tenth of something that only has 8 pieces?

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCdaragorn

We have already entered the zettabyte age. It's the order of magnitude of the digital information that's created, communicated and consumed globally. See also my recent blog post on http://b2bstorytelling.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/highway-61-revisited/

December 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarc Jadoul

After seeing the above comments I can quickly see how we are zooming towards a Yottabyte of data, great read and laughed my head off at all of your comments above. PS I am an old mainframer still working in IT since 1974.

January 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter O'Dowd

its base 2 not 10, ie 1024 not 1000, you know data 1 or 0.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersome programmer

Who the heck makes these names up!!!

May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

You guys are all really cute with your inaccurate comments everyone knows that conforming 10^59 would create an inconerddontgetlaidbyte. Let me know when someone with some valid intelligence comments.

June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterProdigy

yoda lol

August 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchetuma

old school is still correct as everything doubles such as

2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, etc

September 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercornelio adams

I was wrong, the right answer to all the questions is to make space bigger and larger! my idea will work, the decomenditetionbyte will be created!

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicholasJohnLongman

I believe i'll be working as a programmer when I grow up.

March 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Pity poor Nick for saying "...Fail right out of the blocks. 0.1 bytes is not "a binary decision". 1 bit is a binary decision. 0.1 bytes = 0.8 bits (8 bits in a byte x 0.1 = 0.8 bits)."

He's confusing / mixing Decimal and Binary numbering systems.
I guess the "decimal" point (separator) tricked him in to this hypocritical nonsense: "...0.1 bytes = 0.8 bits."

0.1 is an attempt to express a Binary fraction, not to be read as a Decimal fraction.

Trejkaz's September 26, 2012 comment is instructive...

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJRS

TBH, it was really ignorant to move to 1000 from 1024 once just about EVERYTHING measured storage in powers of 1024. KiB for 1000 bytes made a lot more sense as it didn't break existing usage. But now hey, no one knows which freaking convention you're using when you use KB. Gee, thanks 'standards' makers. It's like the old adage about everyone using standards - just not the same ones. Solution in search of a problem. It's not a matter of being 'out of date' as not having the same circle of experts as friends and colleagues.

June 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Whitehead

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