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Cloud storage survey FAIL: May have to, er, back up

Doh! Own numbers show local disk costs plummeting

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Comment The self-seeking company-commissioned survey is anathema to all right-thinking people. This is especially so when journos simply repeat its assertions without examining it for bias and agenda.

However, when the research conducted by said company actually undermines the very case for the service that the company is trying to sell, it all becomes more interesting.

This appears to be the case with a recent survey undertaken by online backup tool Backblaze, which seems not to have learned that lawyer's adage that you should never ask a question to which you don't already know the answer.

Now I certainly don't insist that cloud computing should depend upon nothing but the economics of bandwidth and disk space, but it does at least in part depend upon the relative prices of those two things.

Yes, access from anywhere is lovely, and being able to get at your data as long as you have access to the cloud is cool. Being able to time-share is also pretty good: we don't all need to have huge computing power at our fingertips all the time and the cloud can provide us with that when we need it.

However, part of the basic contention does depend upon the relative prices of local storage and the cost of transporting from remote storage to local use and usability: in short, the cost of bandwidth.

If local disk space is falling in price faster than bandwidth, then the economics are moving in favour of local storage, not the cloud (assuming data movement locally is free, which on a marginal basis it is). If bandwidth is falling in price faster than local disk storage then the economics are moving the cloud's way.

We would expect a company which provides online backup to thus be telling us that bandwidth is falling in price faster than those local disks that they're trying to earn money out of us not using.

But that's not quite what they found out (and thus that lawyer's adage). Rather, they found that disk space has been falling in price far faster than bandwidth. Disk space has fallen in price by 40 per cent over the past year, bandwidth capacity by only 26 per cent. Those rates are far enough apart that we're seeing quite a divergence over time of the relative costs.

If bandwidth had dropped as fast as drive prices have since 1990, then for $45 a month you would, today, be getting 985 Mbs while the average download speed for the US is 5 Mbs.

While discussing this elsewhere it was mooted that this is inevitable: it is just Moore's Law. But perhaps 60 per cent of the disk drive cost is amenable to Moore's Law but only 20 per cent of the telecoms cost. Thus, as those transistors keep doubling, the prices are going to move further apart – further against cloud computing instead of in favour of it.

No, I'm not sure either but it is an interesting thing for a cloud provider to try to tell us all. Although when looking at economic trends, which relative prices of course are, we do need to remember (Herb) Stein's Law. "If something cannot go on forever it will stop." ®

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