Each day, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Could we run out of data storage? Theoretically, the world’s storage capacity is unlimited. Companies can simply add more server capacity or rent more cloud storage. But keeping track of data and the hardware that holds it can be a tough job.
The Data Storage Struggle
The Register recently reported that few IT professionals said their capacity planning and resources were adequate: less than 40 percent had a good grip on managing storage platforms, while close to 60 percent took an ad-hoc approach to evolving needs for storage, computing and network resources. Meanwhile, the IoT is growing.
The Internet of Things is big. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.
Maybe more servers isn’t the answer. These four innovations could revolutionize data storage:
At the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, nanoscientists claim they’ve created the densest storage method ever. The method uses individual chlorine atoms that move across a sheet of copper. Team leader Sander Otte says this system can pack close to 100 times more information per square inch than any other hard drive. He claims that, theoretically, you could store every book ever written onto a piece of copper the size of a postage stamp.
These chlorine-on-copper data storage devices have to be stored in a vacuum at very cold temperatures, so they’re not quite ready for enterprise use.
Researchers at Trinity College in Dublin are developing a device that uses the magnetism of individual electrons as memory units. This would greatly reduce the amount of space necessary to store data and increase data throughput. It relies on cerium dioxide nanoparticles, a magnetic alloy that’s placed in nanometer-thick layers to create memory cells.
DNA stores our genetic information; it could also be used to store our financial records or our tweets. Microsoft and the University of Washington are exploring the use of synthetic DNA for data storage. In a test, the researchers translated the ones and zeros of digital data into sequences using the four “letters” of DNA: (A)denine, (C)ytonine, (G)uanine and (T)hymine. The data included documents, artwork and video. They sent the resulting digital DNA to a lab for replication – and they were able to retrieve and open the files from the duplicated DNA.
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratory are working on a different, DNA-based, encrypted storage system. Their method uses synthetic DNA to make gene blocks and then stitches them together to make rewritable chromosomes.
The advantages of the DNA method are that this material is very stable and doesn’t require special storage methods.
At the University of Southampton in the UK, they came up with a five-dimensional nano-glass disc they say could store all the world’s knowledge for a zillion years. Really. AllAboutCircuitsexplains, “The concept of being 5-dimensional means that one disc has several different images depending on the angle that one views it from, and the magnification of the microscope used to view it.”
Shapes are etched into the glass in five dimensions using lasers. This team claims that theirinvention has the highest storage efficiency and the longest life span.
We won’t see any of them on the rack in data centers anytime soon. But if we’re lucky, at least one will be ready by the time the world gets to octillion bytes of data a day.
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