The Interface

Microsoft develops data-as-DNA system to combat storage explosion

Microsoft has developed a fully automated system that stores digital data as DNA in an attempt to reduce the magnitude of stored data.

A proof-of-concept, conducted by the software giant and the University of Washington, successfully encoded the word “hello” into snippets of fabricated DNA and converted it back to digital data using a fully automated end-to-end system.

Microsoft is looking to address capacity issue in modern data centres by attempting to encrypt digital information in synthetic DNA molecules of a significantly smaller magnitude than the model data centres currently use.

Microsoft believes that through molecular computing technologies and algorithms, the DNA system could fit all the information currently stored in a warehouse-sized datacentre into a space “roughly the size of a few board game dice”.

The automated DNA data storage system uses Microsoft software, developed with the UW team that converts the ones and zeros of digital data into the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that make up the building blocks of DNA ready to be retrieved, through the assembly of liquids and chemicals that can read the DNA sequence in a way that computers can understand.

Microsoft principal researcher Karin Strauss commented: “Our ultimate goal is to put a system into production that, to the end user, looks very much like any other cloud storage service — bits are sent to a data centre and stored there and then they just appear when the customer wants them. To do that, we needed to prove that this is practical from an automation perspective.”

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