In an earlier blog, we took a quick look at the history of cloud computing. But, at Cloud Geeni, while we respect the history of our industry, we also keep a close eye on what the future might bring. And, while it might seem like something out of a science fiction movie, DNA data storage might not be as far-fetched as you might think.

We have a data problem

Data is driving our business and personal worlds. And, it’s only going to become more important with an explosion in data predicted – fuelled by IoT and the use of connected devices.

According to Raconteur in 2019:

  • 500 million tweets are sent every day
  • 294 billion emails are sent every day – and this is predicted to reach 320 billion by 2021
  • Facebook creates 4pb of data

A petabyte (PB) is a unit of digital information storage. It is equivalent to 1,024 terabytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. To put that into context, 10 TB is the amount of data produced by the Hubble Space Telescope per year, and 1 PB is equivalent to 500 billion pages of standard typed text! That’s a lot of information that needs to be securely stored.

Could DNA be the answer?

DNA is the genetic code that makes people who they are. It consists of long chains of the nucleotides A, T, C and G. And, if all of the DNA in the human body were unravelled, it would reach the sun and back more than 300 times![1]

But, perhaps even more interesting, computers and DNA have a lot in common. And, while DNA uses letters, machines use numbers (bits).

Crucially, data can be stored in the sequence of DNA’s letters, turning it into a new form of information technology. So, it is no wonder that scientists have been researching DNA data storage for many years now.

Here are just some of the benefits of DNA data storage

  • DNA is already routinely sequenced, synthesised, and precisely copied with ease
  • DNA is incredibly stable
  • Storing DNA does not require much energy
  • DNA can store massive amounts of data at a density far surpassing electronic devices. In fact, “all the world’s current storage needs for a year could be well met by a cube of DNA measuring about one meter on a side”[2].

DNA data storage might be closer than you think

DNA data storage isn’t just a theory. In 2012 a team at Harvard converted a 52,000-word book into strings of DNA. The method used at that time had limited storage capabilities, however, in 2017, the New York Genome Centre made a breakthrough when it converted six files into strings of binary code and developed an algorithm to process the information for DNA coding. The approach encoded 1.6 bits of information per nucleotide.

Furthermore, recognising that the synthesis of DNA is not easy or cheap, Twist Bioscience has developed a scaled-up approach to DNA synthesis to meet the demand for DNA data storage. Since these ground-breaking developments, other advancements have since brought DNA data storage closer to reality. For example, this year DNA data storage company Catalog shattered the previous DNA data storage record by coding all of Wikipedia in English into DNA.

There are still problems with DNA data storage

Despite the progress in this area, DNA data storage is not likely to be the norm just yet. For one, it is still prohibitively expensive. Also, DNA can become corrupted. But, at some point soon, we will likely see DNA-based storage being used; perhaps for archiving data and making long-lasting backups in the first instance.

To find out how we can help your business with its data storage needs, speak to a member of our team today!