WEB 2.0 and RAMAC Generations

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Last week I had the opportunity to meet the Web 2.0 generation and the RAMAC generation in the same day. On Tuesday, I met the Web 2.0 generation at the "Lunch 2.0" event which HDS hosted in Santa Clara. That same evening, I celebrated with the RAMAC generation who were invited to the 50th Anniversary of the RAMAC Disk Drive, hosted by Hitachi and IBM at the Tech Museum in Mountain View.

Lunch 2.0 was started in February of this year and is defined on its first blog post as  "a social phenomenon referring to a migration of Web 2.0 company employees to other offices around the Silicon Valley area; characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share food and ideas, and “the lunch as a conversation”  Our Web guru, Jeremiah Owyang, who is active with this group, arranged for us to host this event. While HDS is not a Web 2.0 company, we are interested in this area, since these companies can generate a lot of data in a relatively short time. An example of this was Pandora, a company that generates individualized music play lists. Pandora has only been in business for about 10 months and already has 3.3 million subscribers. Just think if each subscriber used 1 GB. That would mean 3.3 PB! Web 2.0 companies are focused on social networking, which shifts the business power base to the consumer. Consumers generate content and store them on these sites,so that others can access the content. Most of these companys give away free storage to encourage consumers to store their content, music, videos, pictures, etc. These companies know that storage is sticky. Once a consumer commits his content to a site and makes it available to his social network, he is unlikely to move his content to another site. They recover the cost of free storage with the money they make on the clicks. The price is right for storage growth to really explode!

While no one at the first event, including some of their parents, were even born when IBM announced the RAMAC disk system in September of 1956, they owe their business model to the success of the hard disk business which revolutionized storage with the introduction of random access to digital data. A great debt is also owed to the engineering innovations of many storage companies which drove the cost of random access storage from about $50,000/MB to less than $0.002/MB. Storage is now cheap enough to give away freely and still cover costs and make a profit based on the services they provide from the stored content.

The 50th RAMAC Anniversary celebration was a gala event. Jeremiah and I swapped out of our T shirts and jeans from the previous event for dark suits and ties. Now it was my turn to introduce Jeremiah to the technology foundation that enabled the WEB – disk storage. It was an opportunity for us to review the history and actually meet some of the people who played such a major part in the development of disk storage since its introduction so long ago.

The program at the Tech Museum included these highlights: There was an amazing demonstration of an operational RAMAC, still reading data that was written 50 years ago!  Hiroaki Nakanishi,  Chairman and CEO,  Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and Bill Healy, senior vice president of corporate strategy and marketing at Hitachi, talked about the history of the storage industry and the applications it has enabled over the years. Compared to the auto industry, a car in 1956 cost about $2,500, could hold five people, weighed a ton, and could go as fast as 100 mph. If the auto industry had kept the same pace as disk drives, a car today would cost less than $25, hold 160,000 people, weigh half a pound and travel up to 940 mph!

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