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May 23, 2017updated 01 Jul 2022 9:47am

Microsoft looks to DNA storage for cloud based tape replacement

At the cutting edge of technology, Mother Nature's designs prove the best.

By Tom Ball

Microsoft is developing a replacement for traditional tape drives that will be based on DNA, taking a step towards the integration of biology and technology.

The forecast for this project indicates that the company will have implemented such a system within a data centre before the end of the decade.

Microsoft is looking at nature’s ability to store information now that we are reaching the physical limits of what we can store data on; Victor Zhirnov, chief scientist of the Semiconductor Research Corporation said.

The company has already found some success in experimenting with this new idea, as nearly a year ago DNA strands had 200 megabytes of data saved onto them. This data was not the simple data you might expect, as it was in fact a music video.


“DNA is the densest known storage medium in the universe, just based on the laws of physics. That is the reason why people are looking into this… And the problem we are solving is the exponential growth of stored information.” Zhirnov said.

While this might sound unbelievable to some, it is not the technology that is standing in the way of achieving these goals; it is in fact the tremendous cost. Microsoft remains confident however, believing that costs could fall if progress in this area demanded it.

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In the process of the developing this cutting edge project, Microsoft is working with a company called Twist Bioscience, this company is geared towards improving DNA production. Twist Bioscience is among a group of new companies exploring this space.

If and when this plan comes to fruition, it would mean the ability to save a colossal volume of data on a minuscule piece of hardware, while also further increasing the agility of the cloud, perhaps assuring it the top spot in the Cloud Wars.

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