Fall 2018 /What's Next?/

What’s Next in Digital Storage?

Digital StorageAt the dawn of the digital age, storage was measured in kilobytes. Over the years, we’ve gotten used to megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes. But have you heard of petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes?

You will soon, says Asya Shklyar, Pomona’s first director of high performance computing. Those terms—each indicating a capacity 1,000 times larger than the one before—will become more and more common in the years ahead. And here at Pomona, that future may be nearer than we think, she says, as the College is already gearing up to provide the kind of computing speed and memory needed to support faculty research using such state-of-the-art and memory-hungry processes as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Pomona faculty are already doing research that can benefit from that kind of memory and speed, Shklyar says. “Like climate modeling—that’s one subject we’re pursuing. And the volcano in Hawaii—we have a model in geology, with the magma and the plates and how the tension works and liquid modeling—a lot of very interesting things.”

So what comes after yottabyte (which is defined as a trillion terabytes)? “That’s the last one that’s officially recognized,” Shklyar said. “There are suggestions, like ‘hellabytes,’ but we don’t know yet.”

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