Data Storage, DNA and Shakespeare

Did anyone hear the story on NPR on storing some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in DNA?

The two researchers are not the first to develop an encoding scheme and storing things in DNA. The researchers Ewan Birney and Nick Goldman even addressed a concern that I had with DNA, which is mutation, which we call bit rot or silent data corruption.

So is it time to develop and agree upon an encoding scheme for data, including an agreed upon ECC encoding? The cost of this DNA storage was extremely high at $12,400 per MB. So the cost is going to have to come way down before anyone gets spun up doing this.

It is not clear from the article if the cost includes the ECC or just the raw data, but a terabyte of storage would cost $12,400,000,000. Even if the price comes down at 50% per year we are still talking the next decade before this becomes affordable. The other issues that need to be considered are:

1. What is the long term shelf life? Do we understand the shelf life conditions? There needs to be reliability testing to determine the amount of ECC that will be needed.

2. The current read and write time is abysmal. Weeks to write and hours to days to read. Nanotechnology must be developed for DNA storage to be successful.

3. There needs to be a standards body. Will it be an ANSI IT group or will it be a genetics group?

A few years ago at a conference, I thought the idea of DNA storage was absurd. I said to someone you have red hair and blue eyes, and genes mutate, which is why we do not look alike. The idea of having ECC built into DNA storage had not crossed my mind. I think it is time to start thinking about some long-term reliability studies to see if this could be part of the storage hierarchy.

Henry Newman
Henry Newman is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor.

Latest Articles

How Tape Storage is Used by Banco Bradesco, Treasury of Puerto Rico, Computational Medicine Center, Calgary Police Department, and Franklin Pierce University: Case Studies

Most technologies eventually outlive their own usefulness, but a rare few withstand the passage of time. While floppy discs vanish beyond the horizon, taking...

How Servers are Used by Ducati, Dashen Bank, Vivo Energy, Skyhawk Chemicals, and Feinberg School of Medicine

Out-of-date legacy systems can act as the weak link in an organization’s push for innovation. This is particularly true of legacy servers attempting to...

How Flash Storage is Used by BDO Unibank, Cerium Networks, British Army, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and School District of Palm Beach County:...

Flash storage is a solid-state technology that uses non-volatile memory (NVM), meaning data is never lost when the power is turned off. It can...