Data is 'The New Oil,' Blowing Past the Zettabyte Era

Data is 'The New Oil,' Blowing Past the Zettabyte Era
AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File

The world creates some 40 zettabytes of useable data each year. So just how much does that much data weigh? After all, the physical realities—i.e., the hardware and the energy needed to power the equipment—are where the rubber meets the road.

The answer? The world's annual data traffic weighs about ten million tons.

How do we know? Thank Amazon for helping to frame this aspect of the physics of information.

A few years ago, the Web giant launched its oddly named Snowmobile. It's a 33 ton, 45-foot-long truck, a semi-trailer chock-a-block filled with digital memory that can hold 100 petabytes (PB) of data and transport it from customers' premises to the Amazon Cloud. (A 100 PB is roughly the data in one million smartphones.)

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