Getty Images/iStockphoto

What lies beyond the yottabyte?

Once data is measured in yottabytes, the world will need new terms for data projections. That's where two new terms -- the ronnabyte and the quettabyte -- come in.

To manage exponentially growing data, it needs to be measured, quantified -- and categorized.

At last fall's General Conference on Weights and Measures, members agreed on two new prefixes for data volumes that grow beyond the yottabyte. They are the ronnabyte, 10 to the 27th power, and the quettabyte, 10 to the 30th power.

But the use of such terms by IT vendors and enterprises is still a way off, according to Scott Sinclair, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group.

"Currently there are multi-exabyte companies out there," Sinclair said. "But there may not be zettabyte companies yet."

Indeed, the ronnabyte and quettabyte might never get established in the enterprise, according to Sinclair. Terms such as these will be used to define worldwide data footprints and will be important to academics; enterprise data might never reach such volumes.

Preparing for projections

Previous to the ronnabyte and quettabyte, the largest measurement of data was the yottabyte, which was established by the International System of Units and is 10 to the 24th power. A yottabyte is 1 trillion terabytes -- or more than 32 billion 32 TB SSDs, the densest SSDs enterprises can currently purchase.

Once you go past zettabytes to yottabytes, you have to come up with new terms.
Marc StaimerPresident, Dragon Slayer Consulting

"Once you go past zettabytes to yottabytes, you have to come up with new terms," said Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

Nothing is being measured in yottabytes yet, according to Staimer. That is due to storage capabilities, which cannot contain all the data generated.

"If we were actually able to capture and store all of the data we are generating in a given year, we could get to a ronnabyte within our lifetime," Staimer said.

Sinclair echoed the point, stating that organizations need to find denser and more energy-efficient ways for storing data to keep up with growth.

Large-scale measurement

New terms can lead to denoting large amounts of stored data in a data center.

This chart shows units of data measurement from a bit to a yottabyte.
The yottabyte used to be the largest measurement for data growth. But not anymore.

"If you were to take an Amazon data center and say how much storage is in that data center, then you would need words [like ronnabyte or quettabyte] to express it," said Jim Handy, general director and semiconductor analyst at Objective Analysis.

If the data center was quite large, it could be easier to say it houses 2 ronnabytes of data instead of 2,000 yottabytes, for example. But, he argued, there could be an easier way.

"It would make more sense to speak in order of magnitude, 10 to the 16th," Handy said, half joking. This would be more accurate, but perhaps still confusing to some.

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at

Dig Deeper on Storage management and analytics

Disaster Recovery
Data Backup
Data Center
and ESG