Gleaning solutions from nature

Some years ago in an Object Oriented Database class, the professor proclaimed, look to nature for elegant solutions to complex IT problems. I remember my fellow classmates' suspended breaths of disbelief, but today the full meaning of his message comes clearly into focus in the article, Storing Digital Data on DNA.

DNA: the ultimate molecule

DNA is considered the ultimate molecule because it holds the recipe of life for all living things. DNA is nature's way of storing extraordinary and detailed amounts of data in a very compact space. DNA is dense, compact, can last thousands of years, and it doesn't require electricity or cooling to remain viable (1). So as universities, governments, and industries look for ways to deal with the growing mass of data flooding our information highways, it's no wonder DNA is making splash on the data storage scene.

Storing digital data on DNA

Using DNA for digital storage is capsulized in these six steps:

  1. Files are represented in long strings of zeros and ones (binary files).
  2. A computer program converts the binary files into the letters A,C,G,T. These letters represent the four components comprising DNA.
  3. A machine takes the transformed data in its A,C,G,T format, and uses it to make DNA. The result looks like a spec of dust.
  4. The DNA is processed in a sequencing machine that reads the DNA fragments as the letters A,C,G,T.
  5. A computer program reassembles the DNA fragments, and converts them back into binary files.
  6. The binary files are ready to play back in their original format with 99.99% accuracy.


In the Meantime

DNA is indeed an attractive storage solution but writing information onto DNA is expensive. Costs are coming down rapidly, but it could be 10 or more years before this technology is practical. In the meantime, we must rely on our current storage solutions including hard disks.

But hard disks are expensive and  power hungry, and in today's high demand environments such as cloud computing, optimizing storage can be challenging. Using Storage Manager and Virtualization Manager  together are powerful tools for monitoring and managing virtualized environments and optimizing your storage solutions.


1 - Gautam Naik, Wall Street Journal reporter