Friday, 4 February 2011

A LOT of Hard Disc Drives

Number One Son says that he would like to work with "computers". That's not a bad career to aim for, except that when quizzed on what he knows about bits and bytes, or ROM and RAM, the answers he provides do not inspire much confidence!

So, in an effort to help him to "fill in the blanks" - and there seem to be a LOT of blanks - I had a quick trawl on t'Internet for IT news sites with the intention of suggesting that he ought to visit them occasionally to see what was happening in his intended field of endeavour. Whilst in the middle of this, I happened to stumble across an article at the Register.co.uk (link at the bottom of the post) that talked about the number of 2.5" hard drives that had been made by some of the major players.

Apparently, in that last three months of 2010, the combined 2.5" HDD output of Seagate, Hitachi, Western Digital and Toshiba was 57.3 million units.

57.3 million drives, in just three months. My word, that's a lot.

And then I started thinking about it a bit further. You see, 57.3 million is just too big a number to deal with, I needed to put it in some kind of perspective.

So I found out the size of a typical 2.5" HDD (since you ask, the Seagate Mementus 500GB SATA Internal OEM HDD), which turns out to be 101 x 70 x 9mm, and worked out how much volume all those drives would take up.

Well, 57.3 million 2.5" HD drives takes up 3646m3, which still doesn't help me. I have no idea how big that is. It could be the size of a house or a factory. But then a brainwave hits - perhaps if it was expressed in terms of something I recognised, I would have a better grasp of the volume.

And lo, it turns out that 3646m3 is about 54 shipping containers worth.

Crikey, that's a lot - and that is assuming that there is no packaging, just the drives packed in the containers as  tightly as possible.

Further calculations revealed that, if spread out on the ground, the drives would cover an area of some 405000m2 , (which, again, doesn't really help) or some 37 full sized football pitches (now you're talking  - that's a lot of area!)

And if laid end to end, they would stretch for some 5780 kilometres. Now, even I can see that that is a long way, but  was surpised to find that this is further than the distance from London to Kabul!

It is interesting to compare the three values, (54 containers, 37 pitches and London-Kabul) and think about how they sound. For me, the London-Kabul description makes the amount of drives seem much larger, but for Number One Son, it the football pitch equivalence that sounds the largest.

It would be great to find out which one sounds biggest to you dear reader!

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