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Will We Ever Run Out of Cloud Storage?

Updated: May 11

In this blog, and inspired by something we heard on the radio (true), we explore the intersection of cloud computing, environmental sustainability, and data security. The blog delves into the challenges and innovations in these areas, highlighting the importance of balancing technological advancement with environmental responsibility and ensuring robust security measures in an increasingly interconnected digital world.

When cloud services experience interruptions, the impact can be widespread, affecting individuals, organizations, and entire industries.

Recent disruptions in cloud storage have underscored the modern world's heavy reliance on remote servers to store essential data. These outages have revealed that various aspects of daily life, including websites, digital operating systems, and businesses, depend significantly on the consistent availability of data stored in the cloud.

The Inquiry by BBC World Service questions if we will ever run out of cloud storage: “Cloud storage outages have exposed how business and the public rely on remote servers holding our data. So is the infrastructure robust enough to cope with our future needs?

The Role Of Cloud Services In Supporting Online Activities 

In today's digital age, the cloud has become an integral part of our lives, storing everything from personal photos to critical business documents. But as our reliance on cloud storage grows, so do questions about its capacity and sustainability. Join us as we delve into the world of cloud storage and explore whether we'll ever reach a point where the cloud runs out of space.

How The Cloud Came To Be

When cloud storage emerged, it meant that information could be streamed, rather than held in a device’s memory. Vast data centers were built where land was cheap and their owners of these data centers soon realized that they could sell excess memory space on their servers to customers in need of data storage. 

But let’s backup a little bit.

"The cloud was really the internet and my ability to connect multiple devices..."

Ola Chowing, Partner with ISG Information Services Group,

Ola Chowning says to the BBC: “What the internet provided was connectivity between an individual device that was on my desk, data centers, and that's plural [data centers sort of everywhere], and that became, essentially the beginning of the cloud. The cloud was really the internet and my ability to connect multiple devices, whether those were in data centers or on someone's desk.”

Today, the cloud, a network of data centers across the globe, has revolutionized the way we store and access information. With over half of all corporate data now residing in the cloud, its importance cannot be overstated. But what exactly is cloud storage, and how does it work?

The Rise of Hyperscalers (Cloud Providers)

Cloud services enable a variety of online activities, leveraging a resilient telecommunications network backed by physical infrastructure such as servers and data centers.

Hyperscale data centers are extensive infrastructures constructed by companies with significant data processing and storage requirements. These enterprises might generate revenue directly from the applications or websites supported by the equipment, or offer technology management services to external clients.

Hyperscale data center
Hyperscale data center

Hyperscale refers to a network of data centers designed to offer cloud computing services on a massive scale. It encompasses a vast network of interconnected data centers known for their ability to rapidly scale up or down to meet demand.

The pioneering hyper-scale provider was Amazon, which launched AWS in 2006... Today, the cloud services market is worth over $500 billion per year, and projected to be worth eight times that amount in a decade.

~ The Inquiry, BBC World Service

Who Are The Companies Behind The Massive Growth of Cloud Computing?

Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform dominate the cloud market, offering vast amounts of storage and computing power to businesses and individuals alike. The BBC's

The Inquiry asks how did these tech giants become the leaders in cloud computing, and what does their dominance mean for the future of data storage? 

Amazon AWS Needed Support From Microsoft And Google In Leading The Crowd.

Cloud services facilitate various online activities, benefiting from a robust telecommunications network supported by physical infrastructure like servers and data centers.

“There was no way that Amazon was going to be able to lead the crowd without Microsoft and Google also kind of getting in the game.”

~ Laure Ruma, Global Editorial Director for the MIT Technology Review

Amazon needed support from Microsoft and Google in leading the hyperscale crowd. Google's strong cloud services and Microsoft's widespread business presence made them necessary players. 

Laure Ruma continues:  “Google has always had a very strong cloud services products, not just for everyday users, but also for companies. And of course Microsoft is very ingrained in companies. Everything from your email to your the way that you write articles every day, so it wasn't too far of a stretch to think well if Microsoft is already giving me my email, they can give it to me in a better way in a more easy way and more online way that so I can check my email while I'm at the grocery store buying today at supper. And this is part of those cloud services. So when we think about cloud services, it really is thinking about an entire infrastructure that makes up this access to space in the cloud.”

Cloud Storage Availability And Economic Success

Cloud Storage availability brings immeasurable benefits to countries in terms of productivity, innovation, and competitiveness across sectors. 

Cloud services facilitate various online activities, benefiting from a robust telecommunications network supported by physical infrastructure like servers and data centers.

Regarding the correlation between cloud storage availability and economic success, countries with ample cloud infrastructure often experience growth due to enhanced productivity, innovation, and competitiveness across sectors.

Amazon Ramps Up Its Cloud-Computing And AI Capabilities

Cloud Computing

From the data provided by Amazon's recent financial report, it's evident that the company's cloud-computing sector, Amazon Web Services (AWS), continues to be a major driver of revenue and profit. The Gurrdian reports that revenue at Amazon Web Services increases to $25bn as retail giant releases earnings report surpassing Wall Street expectations.

“As Amazon ramps up its cloud-computing and AI capabilities, it will need to spend more on infrastructure to support the technology, Andy Jassy (Amazon’s Chief Executive), said on the investor call Tuesday. “Capital expenditure (capex) was at $14bn for the quarter, and Jassy said it is expected to increase in subsequent quarters of the fiscal year.

“The more demand AWS has, the more we have to procure new data centers’ power and hardware”

~ Andy Jesser, Chief Executive, Amazon

Amazon To Invest 10s Of Billions Of Dollars More In Its Data Centers

Amazon's robust performance in its cloud-computing sector underscores the significance of cloud technologies in driving business growth and innovation. As the demand for cloud services continues to rise, companies like Amazon are poised to capitalize on this trend and further solidify their position in the market.

To this, Bill Buhanan, data scientist and professor at Edinburgh Napier College, says to The Inquiry: “What most companies will do is to be able to failover into another region, which means they must synchronize the data and the services and the networking to failover into another region to be able to cope with that. So if one of those data centers goes down and has a power failure, or there was an explosion, then the other five data centers in that region will automatically kick in and as much as possible that should be automated. So it shouldn't be human intervention that makes that happen automatically.”

Failover mechanisms are commonly used in various systems and networks, including cloud computing, data centers, telecommunications, and computer networks, to minimize downtime and maintain uninterrupted operations.

Security and Sustainability

While the cloud offers convenience and scalability, it also raises concerns about data security and environmental sustainability. The Inquiry dived into the challenges of securing sensitive information in the cloud and the environmental impact of massive data centers. From regulatory compliance to energy consumption, we'll explore how cloud providers are addressing these issues and what it means for the future of cloud storage.

"While the cloud offers convenience and scalability, it also raises concerns about data security and environmental sustainability." 

- Bill Buchanan

Do You Have a Plan B?

When something happens to a company's cloud provider, such as a service outage, data breach, or even the provider going out of business, it can have significant implications for the company relying on their services.

Bill Buchanan says: “One weakness is that companies become tied in to their cloud provider. Companies need to understand if the worst happened, if Amazon went bust tomorrow, how would they be able to move their cloud and all the data and everything into another cloud.”

The Future of Cloud Computing

As our reliance on cloud storage continues to grow, so too does the need for innovation and sustainability. From advances in renewable energy to new technologies for data management, we'll explore the possibilities and challenges of the cloud's future. Join us as we envision a world where cloud storage is both limitless and environmentally responsible.

How Green is the Cloud And Does It Run on Diesel?

To our delight, BBC brought up a subject Platcom is very passionate about: PUE (Power-Utility-Energy)

BBC turned this question to Dr. Emma Fitzgerald from Lund University in Sweden.

She shed light on the environmental impact of cloud computing; that cloud computing is a significant source of carbon emissions, accounting for approximately two to 3% of global emissions, comparable to commercial aviation. Dr. Fitzgerald explains that the energy consumption of cloud computing extends beyond servers to include systems required for their operation and cooling.

Data centers, essential for cloud services, often rely on secondary energy systems, such as diesel generators, in case of power failures. While cloud companies have a strong incentive to minimize environmental impact, there is ongoing research and development to enhance energy efficiency and leverage renewable energy sources.

According to BBC, one innovative approach involves locating data centers in colder regions, such as the fjords of Norway and in northern Sweden, where excess heat from servers can be utilized to heat nearby homes. Despite the growing demand for data storage driven by factors like video content and augmented reality, concerns about the environmental and economic costs of energy consumption in cloud services persist, particularly for startups with limited financial resources.

Dr. Fitzgerald's insights underscore the need for continued efforts to make cloud computing more sustainable, balancing technological advancement with environmental stewardship.

Why Did Facebook Put their Data Center in Northern Sweden?

According to the BBC, Facebook has strategically located its data centers in the northern regions of Sweden (link to YouTube video here).

Facebook's data center in northern Sweden
Facebook's data center in northern Sweden

“The reason for that is simply that it's very cold there,” says Dr. Emma Fitzgerald, “so for much of the year, they get essentially free cooling and actually the excess heat from those data centers can then be used to power homes in that area.

Facebook claims that its data center in Norther Sweden is “One of the world's most efficient and sustainable data centers in the world.”

In this episode of The Inquiry, the BBC rounds off the show by stating that “while the question of whether we'll ever run out of cloud storage remains unanswered, one thing is clear: the cloud is here to stay. As technology continues to evolve, so too will our understanding of cloud storage and its impact on our lives. Whether you're a business looking to harness the power of the cloud or an individual seeking to safeguard your data, understanding the intricacies of cloud storage is essential in today's digital world.

“Will we ever run out of cloud storage? Only time will tell.”


Contributors to this BBC Radio show are: 


Link to “How to Calculate Power Capacity for a Data Center” here 


Link to Platocom's blogs here.

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