Saturday, October 22, 2005


Paul Stamatiou

"In the U.S. alone, according to Nielsen/Netratings, we have approximately 202 million Internet users, each of whom is eligible for a free Gmail account with two gigabytes of storage. Since my mother uses less than two gigs and I use more, let's do our rule-of-thumb estimate with that number, making the potential Gmail storage obligation 404 million gigabytes or about 400 petabytes."

You left out one major part. Although your Gmail account may say you have 2+ gigs at your disposal, it does not mean that Google has set aside that much space for you yet. They only do so as you need it. And the most important thing is that Gmail uses COMPRESSED DISK SPACE. Since most emails are text only, and text has an amazing compression rate, Google can compress 2+ gigs (assuming a full text-only gmail account) down to a 100 megs or so. Google wasn't playing dumb when they created Gmail... they researched the most advanced compression methods to make it as fast and efficient as possible.

Michael Parekh


Thanks for clarifying on Google's use of compression. One should assume that all the players will have to use all technical capabilities, especially compression, to keep file sizes as small as possible in a world where consumers are going to expect 24/7 access to any data stored online.

Today's 2gb email accounts are only where the hockey puck is today. The post tries to explain the infrastructure challenges for where the hockey puck is going. In a world where every major portal is scrambling to provide both user-created and commercial videos to hundreds of millions of customers on demand, we're entering an environment that is going to test the boundaries of our capabilities in storage, bandwidth and network management, as never before.

Today's free 2gb email accounts will expand to hundreds of gigabytes of storage online, combined with the issues of consumers getting both upstream and downstream broadband speeds much, much higher than today.

Again the basic point is in the last internet cycle there were dozens if not hundreds of infrastructure companies both big and small focusing on being where the hockey puck was going. Today's picture is far different, and the consumer companies on the front-line are going to have to face and pay for much of that effort.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Brad Gibson

Cringely's numbers regarding electricity utilization and provisioning for data centers are inaccurate. I design data centers and wrote about some of his assumptions here:

Brad Gibson

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