Ahoy exabytes! Seagate dives into DNA storage with CATALOG collaboration

CATALOG, one of the foremost pioneers in DNA storage and computing, announced a new strategic partnership with one of the world’s largest storage companies, Seagate.

The potential of DNA is tantalizing. A single gram of DNA can store 215PB of data, equivalent to approximately 10,000 22TB hard drives, the highest capacity currently available.

The partnership will accelerate the production of small DNA platforms, up to 1,000 times smaller, paving the way for likely mass production of DNA-based storage products over the next decade; desktop and even IoT-sized form factors are explored. At the center of this initiative is Seagate’s recently unveiled “lab-on-chip” technology, which aims to reduce the complexity of operating DNA platforms.

“Through the Seagate platform, tiny droplets of synthetic DNA can test chemistry at significantly smaller levels. These droplets will be processed through dozens of tanks on the Seagate platform. The DNA from the individual tanks is mixed to produce chemical reactions for a range of computing functions, including research and analysis, machine learning, and process optimization,” a company spokesperson told us.

Room to shrink

Shannon, the current CATALOG platform, is big, very big. Think about the size of an average family kitchen. Much like the Colossus computer, the first programmable digital computer used during World War II, Shannon is more of a proof of concept used to demonstrate the extraordinary storage and computational potential of DNA.

The first commercial offering, which will likely be delivered “as a service”, is still about a year away. Additional pricing and performance details, we were told, will be available at that time. This will not involve sending optical discs, hard drives or LTO tapes to be archived. In this scenario, the data could be uploaded to a CATALOG system and the company would convert the data into synthetic DNA.

The problem CATALOG is currently tackling is that the current prototype has proven the potential of an automated and scalable system for converting data into DNA. However, today’s technology requires chemical skills that most companies do not have today. As CATALOG systems develop, these processes will become more automated and the need for chemistry skills will be minimized.

CATALOG added that “the goals of the next-generation platform are to use much smaller amounts of chemicals, require less power, and be able to operate almost anywhere – including offices, on ships in the middle of the ocean and potentially in space.”

Many companies, including Microsoft, have invested heavily in DNA storage, while focusing on other exotic storage technologies (eg, holographic, optical, glass). Due to its inherent resilience and resistance to outside factors, DNA storage is likely to be used in cold storage (whether for cloud backup or cloud storage), as a tool data loss prevention to combat ransomware via the air gap and as a regulatory compliance mechanism (e.g. Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA) via its WORM (Write Once, Read Many) feature.

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