Qubits and DNA: the next steps in storage

With super-fast quantum computers and data stored on DNA are we about to witness a seismic shift in storage? 

Earlier this year, scientists revealed they had built the world's first quantum computer. It could be the first of many. Google said it anticipates the first commercial quantum computers in five yearsIBM, for example, already has plans to build a commercially available universal quantum computer for business and science.

Significantly, these quantum machines will leave current supercomputers looking more like the early clunking mainframes, such are the processing speeds.

This is significant on many levels; speed and adaptability are essential for two of the latest disruptors; the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

IoT is where machines ‘talk’ to each other via the internet. These are the wearable and mobile devices we are currently familiar with but also, increasingly, many household goods. According to Business Insider by 2020 there will be 193m such devices shipped in 2020 ranging from washers, dryers and refrigerators to sensors, monitors, cameras, alarm systems and thermostats.

These internet-connected machines will take decisions and carry out actions without the need for human involvement. For example, to regulate a nation’s energy demand washing machines and dishwashers would know to activate when energy demand was low and freezers would decide to switch off for a harmless couple of hours when demand was high. They would take such decisions based on real-time data being fed from the National Grid’s IoT-linked monitors.

This is all entry-level IoT. As the concept matures, machine actions will require a level of awareness normally associated with human judgment such as visual perception and speech recognition. This is artificial intelligence.

None of this is breaking news, so what’s it all got to do with quantum computing? The connection is data. Both the IoT and AI are, at their core, based on data generation and analysis. The volumes of data we see today – which we already are calling a deluge – will seem small fry once IoT and AI become mainstream. Big Data is morphing into Mega Data.

Being able to manipulate and process this data is of paramount importance, which is where the added factor of quantum computing comes in.

Traditionally, computers code information as bits – either a 1 or a 0. Quantum computing is far more flexible. Data can be coded as either a 1 or 0, or both, or somewhere in between. The industry has termed these as ‘qubits’. It means many calculations can be performed significantly faster and simultaneously rather than sequentially. To meet the challenge, Microsoft is planning the first quantum programming language.

This ability to cope with growing data volumes is imperative when you consider the importance placed on it. According to The Economist, this dependency makes data the most valuable commodity of our age. More data has been created in the past two years than in all time preceding it. Inside Big Data estimates this digital universe will double every two years at least, that’s a 50-fold growth from 2010 to 2020 with machine data increasing even more rapidly at 50x the growth rate.

That’s a lot of data; where will it be stored? True, today’s drive vendors are creating ever larger capacity drives - both HDD and SSDs. HGST is offering a 14TB HDD, WD a 12TB HDD and Toshiba is also planning a 14TB drive. Seagate is marketing a 60TB SSD. Stacks are becoming higher with the multiplier effect allowing datacentres to store greater volumes.

Clearly, however, the demand is there for far greater storage capacities, hence the research into new storage methods such as Heated Dot Magnetic Recording (HDMR) and Microwave-Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR), as this Hammer thought-leader article explores.

One pioneering project is looking at DNA as a data storage medium. DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid - is a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms. It is the carrier of genetic information and was discovered in the 1950s.

Scientists have been storing digital data in DNA since 2012 and, as this report states, Microsoft is hoping to take the technology commercial. The company told the MIT Technology Review that it plans to have an operational storage system based on DNA up and running inside a datacentre by the end of the decade.

Unlike conventional hard drive materials, which only store data on a two-dimensional surface, DNA is a three-dimensional molecule. That extra vertical dimension lets DNA store much more data per unit area: 215 million gigabytes (that’s 215 petabytes) in a single gram of DNA. What’s more, DNA won’t degrade or become obsolete and lasts for hundreds of thousands of years, says Science Magazine.

So, with IoT and AI we have the demand for data storage and with DNA we will have the capacity. What quantum computing does is enable that data to be properly scrutinised and analysed. Quantum computers will power all of our AI systems, acting as the brains of these super-human machines, according to Forbes.

Whether it’s data storage, servers or networks, Hammer, with its 25-plus years’ experience and backed by 40 world-class vendors, can provide the expertise and insight to help channel partners meet the varying and demanding IT needs of their customers.


Source: Hammer
Published Date: 04/12/2017

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