Consumer use of cloud computing will ramp up over the next few years, according to research firm Gartner, Inc., which recently predicted consumers will store 36 percent of their digital content in the cloud by 2016. This compares with a mere 7 percent of consumer data housed in cloud storage in 2011. Consumers' increasing desire to share content and use multiple devices is driving this trend, Gartner said.
"Historically, consumers have generally stored content on their PCs, but as we enter the post-PC era, consumers are using multiple connected devices, the majority of which are equipped with cameras," said Shalini Verma, principal research analyst at Gartner. "This is leading to a massive increase in new user-generated content that requires storage. With the emergence of the personal cloud, this fast-growing consumer digital content will quickly get disaggregated from connected devices."
If Gartner is correct, this trend will have a clear benefit for the Internet infrastructure industry, driving increased business for service providers and construction of new data centers to provide mission-critical space for additional cloud storage.
Zettabytes of Storage, Bound for the Cloud
Gartner predicted that worldwide consumer digital storage needs will grow from 329 exabytes in 2011 to 4.1 zettabytes in 2016. This includes digital content stored in PCs, smartphones, tablets, hard-disk drives (HDDs), network attached storage (NAS) and the cloud.
Average storage per household will grow from 464 gigabytes in 2011 to 3.3 terabytes in 2016. In 2012, Gartner said that the adoption of camera-equipped tablets and smartphones will drive consumer storage needs. In the first half of 2012, a shortage in supply of HDDs as a result of the floods in Thailand provided an impetus for cloud storage adoption, leading to an unusual overall growth rate between 2011 and 2012.
Cloud storage will grow at an aggressive pace in the next few years. A majority of this growth will come from North America and Western Europe. In the Asia/Pacific region, Japan and South Korea will witness the highest growth in cloud storage, where cloud service providers (CSPs) have been offering online storage and sync services for some years.
While social media sites such as Facebook offer short-term (and free) cloud storage, consumers are expected to also try the basic packages that are offered free by online backup companies. These services will be offered as apps on tablets, smartphones and broadband-connected TV through partnerships between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and online storage and sync companies. CSPs will also increasingly offer cloud storage. The use of cloud online storage and sync services will provide the foundational experience for consumers to start using cloud storage as part of the personal cloud.
“Local storage will become further integrated with home networking, presenting opportunities for local storage providers to partner with home networking and automation service providers,” Verma said. “Cloud storage will grow with the emergence of the personal cloud, which in turn will simplify the direct-to-cloud model, allowing users to directly store user-generated content in the cloud. As storage becomes a part of the personal cloud, it will become further commoditized. Therefore, online storage and sync companies need to have a strategic rethink about their future approach.”