Microsoft can save data on DNA now. Will the current data centers be obsolete?

16.07.2019 300

This sounds like a crazy futuristic idea from a movie like the Minority Report, but it might be the future of cloud storage. The DNA is incredibly small in size with high density – 1,000,000,000 Gigabytes, per cubic millimeter. Another enormous benefit is that it can last for ages. Have you heard about a mammoth’s DNA? Yes, these creatures have been extinct for a long time, but their DNA can still be read and used. The current generation of storages can’t last for more than a decade.

Why do we need a new storage type?

Just think for a second, how many large photos and 4k videos you constantly create. People are creating more digital content at a surprisingly fast pace. Soon the supply won’t be able to cover the demand. This is why we need a new solution.

Who is testing DNA storage?

The revolutionary move is led by Microsoft and the Molecular Information Systems Lab of the University of Washington. They have been working together for years and their current record is recording 1GB of popular videos (2019) beating the previous record of 200MB (2016).

How does it work?

The team translates 0s and 1s to DNA molecules (A, C, G, and T) in a synthetic DNA and sets a marker to determine where exactly the data belongs. The new molecules are chemically engineered, then they are put in test tubes and dehydrated. This way they can last extremely long.

It works with any data – music, videos, documents, etc.

When you want to read some part of the DNA, you will want to see a particular file. There is a process called polymerase reaction which selects just the desired data.

Current problems of DNA storage

Speed – just 400 bytes a second.

Getting the data – it is required to hydrate the DNA again.

Cost – it costs a lot more than any other storage technology.

When to expect it?

Currently, the technology is not developed enough. Yes, the data can be saved for a long period of time, but it is not easily reachable. You can’t use it as a regular data center. Yet, it has a clear application. You can save very sensitive data, in a way, that is harder to reach than normal data. Microsoft is very interested in this tech and wants to add it to their cloud service MS Azure. We can expect to see the first test at the end of 2020. It won’t change the current data centers, but it will create a hybrid with the ability to save the most sensitive information on DNA and still use the traditional storages for the rest. It can be used for back-up too, where you have a copy on the DNA.

Sources:
https://news.microsoft.com/innovation-stories/hello-data-dna-storage/
https://www.washington.edu/news/2016/07/07/uw-microsoft-researchers-break-record-for-dna-data-storage/