Massive memory storage to be the most disruptive tech this decade: TIM lecture

A laptop with 10 terabytes – or 10 trillion bytes – of memory could retail for less than $1,000 by 2018, a software engineering veteran said in a recent Technology Innovation Management (TIM) Lecture at Carleton University.

By Joseph Mathieu

“This will probably be the most disruptive tech that will happen this decade,” said Dave Thomas, an adjunct research professor at Carleton. “This will allow us to write better programs faster with less code and fewer programmers.”

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New developments mean new jargon, and where once engineers worked with megabytes and gigabytes of storage, now they talk of terabytes and petabytes.

If an average MP3 song is 3.5MB, you’d need close to 300 million songs to fill one petabyte of storage. In 2013, Netflix announced that their entire database of TV shows and movies used just over 3PB of cloud storage, which could now fit in your pocket thanks to a single memory drive recently developed by Ottawa-based Diablo Technologies.

Last fall, Mr. Thomas joined First Derivatives FD Labs as chief scientist, where he says his team routinely works with petabytes of information. That means billions, even trillions of rows of data.

The advent of faster, less expensive memory has allowed his team to run applications within full datasets instead of slowly moving all the information into application.

“Move the program to the data, not the other way around,” said Mr. Thomas. “It just seems to make more sense.”

In his introduction for the guest lecturer, TIM director Tony Bailetti called Mr. Thomas the reason IBM moved to Ottawa. Mr.Thomas, who was one of the first faculty members appointed to Carleton’s School of Computer Science, founded Object Technology International (OTI), a company IBM acquired in 1997.

Mr. Thomas, who is sought around the world as a business and technical adviser to many technology companies, stressed that huge amounts of non-volatile memory will fundamentally change the way we build computers.

When a computer needs an electrical current to save data, it’s known as volatile memory. Since it isn’t affected by power outages, non-volatile storage is the surest way to save information.

“When you have petabytes of storage, you can do all sort of exciting things, but you have to change your perspective.”

Changing perspectives is part of the mandate for the TIM program and its lecture series. The next lecture, on the startup life, is March 22 with guest speaker Andrea Baptiste, president and CEO of Benbria Corporation.

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