What Happens When We Run Out of Cloud Storage? Scientists Suggest Storing Data in DNA

Cloud storage seems like it will solve all our problems. We no longer have to worry about where to save all our files and data. But is this really an endless supply of storage? Will we eventually run out of it? And what happens when we do? Scientists suggest that our data could be stored in DNA, which sounds odd once you connect it back to human DNA.

If you’ve been around computing for a while, you remember how we used to store files. There was limited space on computers – once they filled up we had to resort to floppy disks, CDs, external hard drives, and even flash drives. We also moved things into .zip and .sit files to makes files take up less room. And whenever we had to, we deleted files.

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Then cloud storage was introduced, and it opened up a whole new world. We have no concerns. We don’t have to delete anything. It’s just how we’ve changed to store everything. It’s a great system, and it means we have nothing worry about anymore as far as running out of room, right?

It turns out that’s not necessarily the truth. According to Digital Trends, around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day. Even more astonishingly, ninety percent of that data has been created in just the past two years.

“When we think of cloud storage, we think of these infinite stores of data,” said Hyunjun Park, the CEO and co-founder of Catalog, a data storage company. “But the cloud is really just someone else’s computer. What more people don’t realize is that we’re generating so much data that the pace at which we are generating it is far outpacing our ability to store all of it. In the very near future, we’re going to have a huge gap between the useful data that we’re generating and how we are unable to store it using conventional mediums.”

It’s unknown when it’s expected that we’ll run out of cloud storage space because newer data centers are being built and existing ones are being expanded. However, Park suggests that by 2026 we’ll only be able to store 12.5 percent of our data.

He and his co-founder, another MIT scientist, Nathaniel Roquet, created Catalog, as they believe it could change the way data storage is used today. The hope is that the data of the entire world could fit within the space of one closet.

The plan is to encode data into DNA, which definitely sounds like an adventurous plan. Apparently not everyone thinks so, as they’ve already raised $9 million in venture funding and have the support of professors from Stanford and Harvard universities.

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“A question I get asked often is, ‘Whose DNA are we using?” Park reports. “People are afraid of us taking DNA from people and turning them into mutants or things like that.”

Thankfully, that’s not the case. They are coding the data into a synthetic polymer. It isn’t anything biological. Instead, it’s a series of base pairs, as a series of ones and zeroes. However, it could be confused by something that is biological.

Using such a system of data storage has been something that was being considered for many years, 1953 in fact. But there has always been a series of problems that prevented it from being used – until now.

Catalog compares their data storage process to manufacturing custom hard drives with our data already hard-wired in. If you were to store different data, a new hard drive would need to be built for it. They compare this to mass-producing blank hard drives and filling them with encoded information only when needed.

They’ve already started storing books this way. “If you’re comparing apples to apples, the bits you can store in the same volume come out at something like one-million times the informational density of a solid-state drive,” said Park. “Whatever you can store in a flash drive, you could store one-million times that in the same volume if you’re doing it in DNA.”

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However, it may not be that much of an ideal situation. Data isn’t not immediately retrievable like it is in the cloud. Data is transformed into a solid pellet of synthetic polymer. To access that data, scientists need to rehydrate the pellet and read it with a DNA scanner. It will take hours to do this. Because of that, for right now they are concentrating on archiving data.

Park sees a possibility of DNA data being used in more exciting situations in the future. “Imagine a subcutaneous pellet containing all your health data, all your MRA scans, your blood tests, your X-rays from your dentist,” he said.

“You would always want that data to be very accessible to you, but you don’t necessarily want it up to the cloud somewhere or on an unsecured server in a hospital. If you had that much with you in the form of data, you could physically control that data and access to it while making sure that only the authorized doctors could have access to it.”

You have to admit that this does seem like more exciting possibilities than just storing things that can’t be accessed easily. To be able to keep your health data stored with you in a tiny small space would be great.

There has to be other possibilities with this type of storage. What else do you think could be stored in DNA? Does this sound like an acceptable solution to eventually replace cloud storage? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

6 comments

  1. “According to Digital Trends, around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day. Even more astonishingly, ninety percent of that data has been created in just the past two years.”
    The two sentences are unrelated. The way the second is written it makes sound like 90% of the data created daily was created in the last two years which is obviously impossible.

    “around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day”
    I wonder how much of that data is actually useful and how much is dancing babies , cute puppies, silly cat, etc videos and zillions of selfies?

    “Park suggests that by 2026 we’ll only be able to store 12.5 percent of our data.”
    Why? The Digital Trends article does not provide any justification for that statement. In fact, no part of the article referring to cloud storage makes any sense. Are we going to lose the ability to build more and bigger storage hardware? I understand that Dr. Park and his associates are working to develop a viable DNA storage method and that, once it becomes commercially available, they want everybody to use it and replace their hard drives with. But to claim that we are “running out of cloud storage” is just as ludicrous as Chicken Little’s claim that “The sky is falling”.

    • Nothing wrong with the writing in the the sentences highlighte. Sorry.

      And yes, th at’s the whole point. All that data that is created every day is useless junk that we don’t need. While at one time, in the floppy disk days, we threw out files that weren’t absolutely necessary, we no longer do that because it seems the cloud is endless. But it’s not, and we’re filling it up with “dancinb abies, cute puppies, silly cat videos, and zillions of selfies.”

      I can’t tell you why Park predicts we’ll only be able to save 12.5 percent of our data. He’s the scientist, and he didn’t explain his reasoning. But he also said beforehand that statement that he couldn’t predict when we would actually run out of data because they are constantly working on bulding more storage centers and improving the existing ones. So how he is able to predict that next statement is something he didn’t care to share.

      And if you don’t think we’re runing out of cloud storage and that it’s a Chicken Little claim, you didn’t bother to read either my article or the the one I referenced. The cloud is not endless. At some point we will run out of room, and it’s because of the “dancing babies, cute puppies, silly cat videos, and zillions of selfies” that everyone now saves instead of throwing away.

      • Maybe nothing wrong with the writing, but that two sentences cannot be related, as correctly pointed out by Dragonmouth.

        In fact, the two sentences, as written by Digital Trends, were:

        ‘The reason for this is the unimaginable pace at which we currently produce data. Each day, around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created, courtesy of the 3.7 billion humans who now use the internet. In the last two years alone, a mind-boggling 90 percent of the world’s data has been created.’

        This makes sense.

  2. “you didn’t bother to read either my article or the the one I referenced.”
    It is BECAUSE I read both articles more than once that I wrote what I did. It is obvious that we are running out of storage space for our data, just as the Sun is running out of fuel, just as we are running out of space for people, just as we are running out of oil. Scientists have provided us with reasons why it will happen and, based on current knowledge and technology, ball park figures on when those events will come to pass.

    “He’s the scientist”
    And that is why I would expect him to provide some kind of calculations to back up his statements. Instead he makes an apocalyptic (Digital Trends word, not mine) claim one would expect more from a supermarket checkout tabloid than from a reputable scientist.

    “I can’t tell you why Park predicts we’ll only be able to save 12.5 percent of our data.”
    Can HE? Does it not sound funny that Park can state a very precise percentage but cannot even give a wild ball park estimate of when? For a scientist, he is awfully unscientific. He sounds more like a huckster disparaging a competing product to make his DNA Storage company and its product look better.

  3. Hello ,

    This is a very interesting article but it so wrong because it only refers to one of many types of data storage technologies.!
    I will name a few without being characterized as a science fiction writer. In fact if you were discussing DNA storage a few years back you would deffently called out a mad scientist or a science fiction writer..!!! Now days this is acceptable so I will talk about the new technologies which you probably have heard or so in movie films like the DNA Storage Technology.

    First off all I want to say that DNA storage is not the only Technology now days. The “people” [ the ones behind the curtain] want to promote DNA manipulation that includes storage because the want to control the DNA strings in a way that it is beyond our comprehension ( you know what I mean and it is not about building monsters or super humans or adaptive organic materials or memory DNA cells in robotics or….you name it.!) Maybe this is the original goal behind DNA storage and it is not storage at all.!
    Storage now days is NOT GOING to run out even with the technology which is known to the public of course. if we take under consideration that a log with the storage algorithms the technology in the hardware is growing too , it is impossible to run out of space. The compression technology was in baby steps and now is doing progress and it will do so in the future. The hardware also. For example : ” before your had only 8Gbytes of space on o Flash Drive and now you have more that a 128Gbytes which is in your pocket” , imagine what it will be in the future -> 1TBytes in your pocket maybe!!! Now imagine what will happen to the cloud storage!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course all of these depend of the money , the cost and the profits of the companies world wide. No need to worry for now as an average user of this Technology.
    On the other hand this technology is no good for the “companies” who want to store everything about the human race and I mean all the communications and the medical data of all the people of the planet.These “companies” which want to file everybody and everything are actually doing it without our knowledge like a “BIG BROTHER” over our heads.
    I do not know why ???!!!! do not ask me.ask yourselves instead. For “them” the current technology is useless.

    So now let’s go on a trip with me to the new technologies about computers ( processor power and storage capabilities).

    1] Quantum Computers -> in simple words computers working with light can also store data on crystals.Of course the storage depends of the size and the type of the crystals. One small crystal smaller than a flash drive can store half the data stored on the web now days!!!! The molecular stature of the crystals can also be changed according to our needs. The possibilities are endless with light storage. Now we have light media but we are only using them on materials which are in stock and must be consumed by the public first. You understand??? Profit comes first. I am not going to say more about this technology.

    2] Water Memory Manipulation Technology. (WMMT) -> Did you know that the water have memory??? Maybe you do but just imagine a technology to be able to write or read in to the molecular structure of the water????The water can store images in a form of energy that can actually be seen. I am not going to say more , just a little glimpse of what is going to happen if “they” allow it of course. Do not ask me who are “they”!!!

    3] The Etherium Manipulation Technology -> (Of course this is not the bit coins ) It is the Air .! According to the Greeks the Air we breath in have a multiple layers of energy called “ETHERAS” in Greek words. It is a grid of energy like the web now days which can be harvest as well can be storing energy. In very simple words you can upload and download data in to the air we breath in. This doesn’t affect us in our dna and it is quite safe as they say. These energy points that are scatter across the hole planet ware discovered by the Greeks many years a go and they were using them only for building Oracles, like the famous Delphic Oracle. The Greeks were healing people harvesting the energy from etherium air. The “now how” is gone by the “people” behind the scene.

    That’s all for now and excuse my English please.

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