In the history of the computer and IT technology, there have been many storage media; depending on your birth date you may still be familiar with the floppy disk, the 3.5-inch floppy disk, the USB stick, the external hard disk, the CD-ROM. Even magnetic tape is yet in use in some companies, mainly for data back-ups. These widely used storage media are mainly technologies of magnetic storage (e.g. hard disk, external hard disk, magnetic tape) or optical storage (e.g. DVD) or a combination of both: magneto-optical storage (e.g. mini-disk).

Everyone who worked with 3.5-inch floppy disks (or even the floppy disks) 20 years ago knows that the "durability" or "technical life span" of a storage medium is a challenge. Other concerns (or rather: criteria for storage technology) are access time and storage density (how many bytes can I put on a storage medium).

How does the DNA storage (still in the research labs) compare against these existing storage technologies? Actually, it offers amazing characteristics. It stores information in the same way as our genetic material is stored. Not in the binary form (0, 1), but based on the building blocks adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). Of course, letters or numbers can be translated into A/C/G/T code as well as into binary code or hexadecimal code.

First of all, let's talk about the durability of the new storage medium: Considering that it is still possible today to analyse the genome of already extinct animals, one gets an idea of the robustness of the DNA storage medium. But even more amazing is the storage density: It is so high that the entire content of today's global Internet would fit into a shoe box (sic!).

So why is this not yet in use? - Although the storage of one gigabyte of data has already been achieved, the technology is not yet mature, and work is needed on access time in particular. The storage process still takes several hours, the retrieval of the stored data several minutes. But there's progress ....


The author is a manager in the software industry with international expertise: Authorized officer at one of the large consulting firms - Responsible for setting up an IT development center at the Bangalore offshore location - Director M&A at a software company in Berlin.