In a recent study, the Digital Economy Compass 2020 from Statista estimated that the world wide volume of data stored by Mankind in 2020 was around 50 zetta octets.
If that figure is not figurative enough for you, let’s use the image of a Hard drive: You would need 50 billions 1To Hard Drives (HDDs or SSDs, that is up to you) to fit all that datas. Quite a lot isn’t it ?
According to DataCenterMap, our data is kept warm in about ~5000 data centers located around the world, while a huge amount of energy (416,2TWh which is about U.K yearly consumption) is provisioning them and trying to cool them down.
Which is, adding on the top of the storage capacity and renewal devices issue (hard disk lifespan lasts about 3-10years) an ecological issue.
And this trend is not about to slow down at the current pace.
In these days of all-digital, between the creative(or not) video content popping up everywhere on social media, VOD platforms or data connected devices, big data etc… predictions about the data-growth tend to converge about a volume of 175 Zetta octets by 2025 and 2000 Zetta octets (or 2 Yotta octets ) by 2035, all of which comes with a growth of energy dedicated to them, unless we find a solution by then.
In that optic, companies such Microsoft started to think about the future of our storage media. In 2015 was launched the ‘DNA storage project’ which tries to provide a response to those needs as quoted below:
“Demand for data storage is growing exponentially, but the capacity of existing storage media is not keeping up. Most of the world’s data today is stored on magnetic and optical media. Despite improvements in optical discs, storing a zettabyte of data would still take many millions of units, and use significant physical space. If we are to preserve the world’s data, we need to seek significant advances in storage density and durability. Using DNA to archive data is an attractive possibility because it is extremely dense (up to about 1 exabyte per cubic millimeter) and durable (half-life of over 500 years).”
In a recent publication, a new step forward seems to have been made. Even if it’s not tomorrow we will store our data into DNA, we should hope the research keeps going and that an industrial use can be found to help us fight those storage capacity and ecological issues we are facing.
Microsoft DNA storage: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/dna-storage/
Microsoft publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-24991-z#Abs1