I’m a big fan of USB flash drives. You can buy a 256G flash drive today which is remarkable given that until 2005 most personal computers were still shipping with 2.88MB floppy drives. The capacity will certainly grow and the cost will certainly come down. It is not too hard to imagine a flash device weighing a couple of grams with 1TB of capacity in the not-too-distant future.
The question is, what can we use them for? What existing IT problems can we solve with these devices and what novel applications may spring up?
A feature of modern life is almost everyone carries with them a mobile phone. In many cases this is a smartphone so it is not a stretch to say everyone carries a few Gig around with them. To most people that just means they can play better games or store more music. But there seems to be an opportunity there to combine mobility and massive storage to solve more general IT problems.
As I work for RedPixie, a technology company specialising in virtualisation, I have ample opportunity to get involved with leading edge IT. In an increasingly “virtual” and “cloudy” world, particularly with reference to remote working, moving data around quickly is key, particularly “personal” data. In a Windows world that would be referred to as the “profile”. I see that as the chunk of config which makes your computer usage personal. An organisation may well have 2000 identical computers for people to use in terms of hardware and operating system (even apps). But you can guarantee that after a very short usage period , no two computers will be the same just because of the way an individual configures settings to suit themselves.
This whole problem comes under the banner of “profile management” and it’s pretty big business with several products in the marketplace targetted at storing, moving, applying and changing profiles.
I have a theory that a portable mass storage device seems like just the ticket for storing large amounts of personal data. I posed this question to my learned colleagues over a beer one evening. I was told it was a question that only a Unix person would raise :-). The key point is that as much as possible needs to be as close as possible i.e. compute, data and profile. If your compute and data is on the other side of the Atlantic it doesn’t help you that you carry your profile with you, you still have a latency/bandwidth problem.
But, my point is, with a 1TB flash drive you take EVERYTHING with you: O/S, apps, data and profile. All you use at the remote location is the compute hardware and human interface devices. This strategy is made easier by virtualisation where the O/S you carry can be a VM running on a corporate virtual platform.
What do you do, I said after a couple of beers, if your base is on Mars? The maximum latency there is 20mins. You have to take it with you. Much hilarity ensued but that’s another story.