Saturday, April 09, 2016

A DNA-Based Archival Storage System

A DNA-Based Archival Storage System. James Bornholt, et al. ACM International Conference. April 6, 2016.
    This paper presents an architecture for a DNA-backed archival storage system. "Demand for data storage is growing exponentially, but the capacity of existing storage media is not keeping up." All data worldwide is expected to exceed 16 zettabytes in 2017. For some, using DNA as a storage medium is a possibility because it is extremely dense. Most data today is stored on magnetic and optical media, but storage durability is another critical aspect of archiving.Spinning disks are "rated for 3–5 years, and tape is rated for 10–30 years."

A DNA storage system must overcome several challenges:
  1. DNA synthesis and sequencing is far from perfect, with error rates on the order of 1% per nucleotide. Stored sequences can also degrade compromising data integrity. 
  2. Randomly accessing data in DNA-based storage results in read latency and exiting work requires the entire DNA pool be sequenced and decoded. 
  3. Current synthesis technology does not scale: data beyond the hundreds of bits therefore cannot be synthesized as a single strand of DNA. Isolating only the molecules of interest is non-trivial
The presentation authors believe DNA storage is worth serious consideration and envision it as "the very last level of a deep storage hierarchy, providing very dense and durable archival storage with access times of many hours to days." It has the potential to be the ultimate archival storage solution because it is extremely dense and durable, but it is not practical yet due to the current state of DNA synthesis and sequencing.

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