Microsoft will launch DNA data storage by 2020
Tue 23 May 2017
Microsoft has reportedly formalized a goal to have a working DNA data storage system inside a data center by 2020.
Employees involved with the project confirmed the company’s plan to have an operational system using DNA to store data within a data center, ‘at least for a boutique application’ within the next three years.
Microsoft first began serious exploration into the use of DNA for data storage last spring, when researchers from the University of Washington and Microsoft published an academic paper detailing an experiment in which data stored on DNA was retrieved perfectly, with zero data loss.
This successful experiment was followed by the purchase of 10 million strands of synthetic DNA from Twist Bioscience. Microsoft intended to use the semiconductor-synthesized genetic material to encode digital data and perfect its DNA data storage and retrieval system.
Just last month, Microsoft announced that it would purchase an additional 10 million strands of synthetic DNA from Twist.
Karin Strauss, Ph.D. and Senior Researcher at Microsoft said that while there are many challenges to overcome before DNA is a mainstream data storage solution, preliminary results are encouraging. “Demand for data storage has been growing at breakneck pace. Organizations and consumers who need to store a lot of data – for example, medical data or personal video footage – will benefit from a new long-term storage solution. We believe DNA may provide that answer.”
A recent study showed that data storage requirements are expected to grow 40% year over year, to 50 times the current space needed over the next decade. Added to capacity requirements is the need to continually review, backup and replace ageing hardware to preserve the data contained within.
Data storage capacity is one of the driving factors for the global increase in the adoption of cloud technologies, however, DNA is attractive as a method for storing data for several reasons. First, if coded properly, DNA can store information millions of times more compactly than storage technologies currently in use. Also, if dehydrated, DNA will preserve information reliably over centuries, without the risk of hardware degradation that occurs with flash drives or hard drives.
The DNA data storage device, to be developed by Microsoft in the next few years, would be approximately the size of a large 1970s-era Xerox copier.