A Flash View In The Building Of The Cloud
How often did you want to share a picture, a favorite song, or even a movie with a friend but suddenly realized that you had deleted those files from your laptop and only had them on a backup hard drive at home? Probably not very often, but often enough for you to begin thinking fondly about the cloud. And now that the IT world is becoming more and more mobile, with smartphones, tablet PCs, and mini laptops, we are bound to see how more personal data will begin their cloud existence.
But what we call “the cloud” is not so different from the devices we have at home. The cloud is more powerful, has infinitely better Internet connectivity, and enough storage space to boggle any imagination. The image from The Matrix, with the farms of people being harvested for their BTUs is a much better comparison, except that here we have hard drives instead of humans. The hard drives are just as neatly stacked in storage pods and these pods fill “acres of farmland” in corporate and private offices.
They grow at an incremental rate in order to stay ahead of our needs and that is why it is so difficult to picture this growth. Google does a pretty good job of it with the ever-growing storage count that they show you on the left column as you log into your Gmail account, but the flooding in Thailand last year created the opportunity for us to have much better visual understanding of this growth.
The floods in Thailand created not only a huge humanitarian disaster but also drove the prices of hard drives through the roof because most manufacturers had built their plants there. That almost meant disaster for many small startup companies, but one of them, called Blackblaze, found an ingenious way to stay afloat.
They noticed that the prices for the 3 TB consumer hard drives had stayed relatively unchanged and that they could modify those hard drives and use them in their storage pods. However, even the consumer network was close to being depleted and Blackblaze’s new sources, Best Buy, Fry’s, and Costco set up a limit that only 2 HDDs could be bought by one person at a time. Yet, the company needed 50 TB more space every day so they reached out to their friends and family and asked them to buy as many drives as they could on their behalf.
So the guys from Blackblaze, their friends, and their families went out or online and bought as many hard drives as they could. One of the guys had his own “paper route” where he would drop by as many shops as he could, driving about 212 miles in total, and buying the 2 HDD allowed ration from every shop. An innovative friend of the company would order two hard drives on his behalf with his own credit card, wait until they were shipped, and then order another two with his wife’s credit card, having them shipped to their office.
Ultimately the company survived and actually thrived because of the effort that went into buying affordable storage space. Yet the most spectacular thing about their story becomes apparent when you start picturing a small army of people buying 3TB hard drives every day for days and days just to meet the demands of a small cloud storage company.
By Luchi Gabriel Manescu