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10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change Your World

(Page 7 of 11)

HARI BALAKRISHNAN
Distributed Storage

Whether it's organizing documents, spreadsheets, music, photos, and videos or maintaining regular backup files in case of theft or a crash, taking care of data is one of the biggest hassles facing any computer user. Wouldn't it be better to store data in the nooks and crannies of the Internet, a few keystrokes away from any computer, anywhere? A budding technology known as distributed storage could do just that, transforming data storage for individuals and companies by making digital files easier to maintain and access while eliminating the threat of catastrophes that obliterate information, from blackouts to hard-drive failures.

Hari Balakrishnan is pursuing this dream, working to free important data from dependency on specific computers or systems. Music-sharing services such as KaZaA, which let people download and trade songs from Internet-connected PCs, are basic distributed-storage systems. But Balakrishnan, an MIT computer scientist, is part of a coalition of programmers who want to extend the concept to all types of data. The beauty of such a system, he says, is that it would provide all-purpose protection and convenience without being complicated to use. "You can now move [files] across machines," he says. "You can replicate them, remove them, and the way in which [you] get them is unchanged." With inability to access data sometimes costing companies millions in revenue per hour of downtime, according to Stamford, CT-based Meta Group, a distributed-storage system could dramatically enhance productivity.

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