Where Can We Store All the World’s Data? Microsoft and the University of Washington Explore DNA

By Lori Cameron
Published 07/28/2017
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close up of DNA strand

Researchers say that the “digital universe” will grow to more than 16 zettabytes in 2017. How much is that, you ask?

Sixteen zettabytes is equal to roughly 16 billion terabytes or 16 trillion gigabytes. And as big data and the Internet of Things grow, we will see an even greater explosion of data. This raises the question: Where will we store it all?

One answer is DNA.

A DNA storage system synthesizes DNA molecules to represent data and stores them in pools. To read the data, it selects molecules from the pool, amplifies them, and sequences them back to digital data. A single gram of DNA can hold 215 petabytes.

Because of the impending limitations of silicon, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington formed the Molecular Information Systems Lab (MISL) to explore hybrid silicon and biochemical systems—such as DNA—as alternative storage systems with the capacity to store the never-ending deluge of information our digital society creates and distributes every day.

Read more about their work in the May/June 2017 issue of IEEE Micro. (Login may be required for full text.)


About Lori Cameron

Lori Cameron is a Senior Writer for the IEEE Computer Society and currently writes regular features for Computer magazine, Computing Edge, and the Computing Now and Magazine Roundup websites. Contact her at l.cameron@computer.org. Follow her on LinkedIn.