Computer architects at Microsoft Research say the companies has formalized a goal of having an operational storage systems based on DNA working inside a data center toward the end of this decade. The aim is a “proto-commercial systems in three years storing some amount of data on DNA in one of our data center, for at least a boutique application,” says Doug Carmean, a partners architect at Microsoft Research. He describes the eventual devices as the size of a large, 1970s-era Xerox copier.
Internally, Microsoft harbor the even more ambitious goal of replacing tape drive, a common format used for archiving information. “We hope to get it branded as ‘Your Storage with DNA,’” says Carmean.
The plan signal how seriously some tech company are taking the seemingly strange idea of saving videos, photo, or valuable document in the same molecule our genes are made of. The reason, says Victor Zhirnov, chief scientists of the Semiconductor Research Corporation, is that effort to shrink computer memory are hitting physical limits, but DNA can store data at incredible density.
But its most important feature is density. DNA can hold 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (aka a quintillion) bytes of information in a cubic millimeter of DNA. “Density is driving everything,” says Zhirnov.
A spokesperson for Microsoft Research center said the company could not confirm “specifics on a product plans” at this time. Inside the company, the DNA storage idea is apparently gaining adherents but is not yet universally accepted format. “Our internal people believe us, but not the tape storage people data ,” says Carmean, formerly a top chip designer at Intel.
In additions to being dense and durable, DNA has a further advantages that’s not often mentioned—its extreme relevance to the human species. Think of those old floppy disk you can’t read anymore or clay tablets with indecipherable hieroglyphs. Unlike such medias, DNA probably won’t ever go out of style.
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