USB, hard drives, servers, cloud… all that one needs to store and maintain over time data and their backups. Yes, but for how long?
Although virtual, data need a lot of physical space: the Utah Data Center, for example, is the largest data collection center of the planet, also used for military purposes, and occupies an area of 100,000 square meters. No wonder, then, if computer scientists around the world are looking for new methods and media to store data and save them unchanged over time.
Here, we present five ideas that may replace or supplement the traditional storage methods in the future.
Glass disks 5D
It’s a data storage in five dimensions, embedded in nanostructures within glass discs. A research group at the University of Southampton has created a prototype able to contain 360 terabytes of data and to withstand heat up to 190°C. The team believes that this invention could be used to keep the data up to 13.8 billion years (more or less, the time elapsed since the Big Bang to the present day) because, unlike CDs and DVDs which hold their data on the surface and are prone to scratches, the glass discs 5D protect information within their structure. Hitachi, for its part, has already experimented this technology in 2012.
Data center divers
It’s not a news that Microsoft has tons of data to keep safe, and last year the technology giant has begun to experience an underwater cloud. The Natick Project consists in closing data server in a huge watertight capsule, and then deposit it on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean, near Washington. After a trial period of two months, the 38,000-pound steel container has been brought to the surface, where its contents – a data center with the computing power of 300 personal computers – were still nice and dry. If the project works, it may lead Microsoft to someday install more underwater data centers, but for now it has no firm plans.
Skyscrapers in Iceland
Still in its concept stage, a colossal storage skyscraper is designed to be located in Iceland, where space seems not to be missing. The building would act as a giant cylindrical motherboard with a hollow center, enabling a natural air circulation to prevent overheating servers. Renewable energy infrastructure of the country would allow the tower to be 100% supplied by green energy. Its design won the third place in 2016 eVolo Skyscraper competition, although we cannot yet say whether it will never become reality.
While many researchers working on the development of new data storage devices, others are looking for the best locations to keep the server safe. Some say that the answer is right under our feet, so to speak. Limestone abandoned mines around the world could be adapted to the perfect locations for underground data center. These possible data storage centers would have a constant level of temperature and humidity – two necessary requirements for the preservation of the data and for the reduction of energy consumption required for ventilation.
Yes, the same DNA that builds up our genetic heritage.
One of the great advantages of DNA, in fact, is the impressive amount of information that can be stored: in a cubic millimeter might be filed an exabyte, equivalent to one billion gigabytes, of data. Another aspect not to be underestimated is its strength: a sequence may remain intact and legible even for thousand years, which is unthinkable for any other storage system used today. Microsoft has recently shown interest in this molecule: the company has plans to buy 10 million of nucleotides sequences from a California startup to study a new digital information storage system.