Architecting Datacenters for Sustainability: Greener Data Storage using Synthetic DNA

Electronics Goes Green 2020 |

Published by IEEE | Organized by Fraunhofer IZM

Global digital data generation has been growing at a breakneck pace. Although not all generated data needs to be
stored, a non-trivial portion does. Synthetic deoxyribonucleotide acid (DNA) is an attractive medium for digital
information storage. If kept under appropriate conditions, DNA can reliably store information for thousands of
years. It also has a practical estimated density of 1 Exabyte per cubic inch, which is much higher than commercial
data storage media.

Buildings, infrastructure, electronic computing, storage, and networking equipment, and other physical resources
all contribute to the environmental impacts, particularly, emissions, energy and water consumption, and waste
generation of digital data storage. DNA data storage has the potential to limit these impacts by drastically reducing
the resources required to maintain very large volumes of data.

In this paper, we describe how to store digital information in synthetic DNA, present a cradle-to-grave life cycle
assessment (LCA) of archival DNA data storage, and compare the resulting environmental impacts with those of
traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and tape storage based on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy usage,
and blue water consumption (BWC). We conclude that DNA shows promise when compared to HDDs and tape,
and we follow that conclusion with a discussion of how further innovation in biotechnology could be used to
improve the sustainability of future datacenters.