There are phases in the lifecycle of technologies in which huge transformations lurk. We believe we are on the cusp of one such transformation today regarding archival storage and DNA.
Information is being digitized on a massive scale, by servers in datacenters, by mobile devices, and by networks of sensors everywhere around us. Artificial intelligence techniques and ubiquitous processing power are making it possible to mine this massive ocean of data; however, integral to harnessing this data as knowledge is the ability to store it for long periods of time.
Legacy storage solutions have scaled extensively over the years, but the areal density of magnetic media (HDD and tape), which enables today’s mainstream archival storage solutions, is slowing, and the size of libraries is becoming unwieldy. In short, data growth is outpacing the scalability of today’s storage solutions. The industry needs a new storage medium that is denser, durable, sustainable, and cost-effective in order to cope with the expected future growth of archival data.
DNA, Nature’s data storage medium, is an attractive emerging alternative at a time when synthesis and sequencing technologies for advanced medical and scientific applications are enabling the manipulation of synthetic DNA in ways previously unimagined and the endeavor to use DNA for digital data storage is further pushing these technologies. There are credible predictions that, by 2030, DNA synthesis could reach a cost of $1/terabyte and that DNA sequencing may reach similar levels. As a data storage medium, DNA has compelling properties. The scale is unprecedented; the volume of space inside an LTO tape cartridge is estimated to hold 100,000 times the number of DNA-bits as an LTO-9 tape in that same cartridge. The durability of DNA and uniformity of the DNA molecular structure are ideally suited to long-term archival storage. Finally, DNA is an inherently environmentally friendly medium in terms of power, space, and sustainability, which will place significantly lower burdens than legacy storage technologies on the ecosystem.
To learn more about the technology, please refer to our first white paper or the videos on this page.
The intersection of the demand to “digitize everything” combined with our ability to manipulate synthetic DNA offers and opportunity to create a new layer in the storage hierarch that could radically change scale of what we store and for how long we store it. Preserving our digital legacy in turn opens possibilities to extract, and even create or discover, new knowledge.
The alliance is working on the educational, awareness and marketing aspects of the technology, as well as interoperability technical aspects by writing specs, standards and methodologies.
We currently have 4 active working groups with the following goals:
Industry Technology Roadmap – Create, maintain, and publish industry roadmap for the DNA data storage technologies and identify challenges for the entire workflow
DNA Archive Rosetta Stone (DARS) – Create a basic universal identifier describing how to decode/read the rest of the archive. Enables the ability to universally discover what is in the archive and how it was built, yet enables innovative encoding and chemistry in the main archive
Interoperable Interfaces – Specify physical interfaces and formats for DNA data storage system components to enable interoperability across different vendors and avoid vendor lock-in.
Data Preservation / Endurance Methodologies – Establish standard metrics and methods to compare and assess the endurance and data retention characteristics of DNA-based data storage solutions based on a set of use cases.