Bandwidth of a 747

A while back–ending in 2011–I got involved in a multiyear discussion of the bandwidth of a 747 carrying packaged data from New York to LA–that is, latency issues aside, how did it compare to online transmission? Back then, big tech companies would use trucks as data transfer devices when latency wasn’t crucial. I suspect they still do.

Looking back, I see that the champion for consumer-grade devices was originally Blu-Ray discs–and that, even then, the limiting factor for a 747SP was weight, not volume. By 2011, the champion was hard disks, and the effective transfer rate was 250 Terabytes per second.

That’s still pretty impressive, but of course storage keeps getting denser and cheaper, and with SSDs, a lot lighter than hard disks. Specifically, today’s 4TB Sandisk Ultra SSD weighs about 1.4 ounces, compared to 1.6 pounds for the 3TB Sandisk/Western Digital hard disk of 2011. (It’s a lot cheaper, too: Sandisk’s currently selling them for under $250.)

A little quick calculation yields a bandwidth of 5 Petabytes per second–5,000 Terabytes. I won’t even bother figuring out how much data that is…

Just for fun. And, since I still remember the difficulty my former employer had trying to find money and space for one terabyte of additional storage, a reminder of how things change.

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