Powder: The Most Impractical Storage Suggestion Yet?

'Storage' appearing onscreen in cloud of dust particles

Posted on Friday, November 9, 2018

The race to find new storage media has included some unusual discoveries. There are ongoing efforts to unlock the full storage capacity of DNA for instance. Then there was diamonds, salt crystals and glass.

But Belgian researchers may have just unveiled the weirdest technique yet.

Powder power

A group of chemists, biochemists and computer science experts have published results of an experiment using powder as a storage medium. Exactly how the technology works is unclear, but it is believed to rely on macromodules.

According to the report published in the Telegraph, data is encoded as a QR-code or short string in the powder. It is then read by biochemical analysis.

Once decoded, the information links back to a website, map or an app. The entire process takes just a few seconds.

The team say that the powder offers a practical alternative to DNA storage which is seen by many as the medium of choice for future technologies. Initially they hope to use their powder as a portable alternative to USB drives.

But what about the practicalities?

Clearly these are early developments and it will be quite some time until we see anything approaching a saleable product. But already there are obvious potential problems.

First, the IO speeds are clearly far too slow for deployment in most scenarios. A system that takes seconds to decode something as basic as a QR code is clearly impractical.

Second, there are several large barriers to storing and managing powder in a data center. Can data still be retrieved if some of the dust is lost? How much is needed? Then there’s the issue of HVAC and powder – could this really be a viable medium until fan-less servers become a reality?

As always, any development that could help resolve capacity – both in terms of storage and physical size – is welcome. But it remains to be seen whether a biochemical powder from Belgium is the advance we need.

But until then, you’re going to have to rely on your traditional disk-based storage systems. Call CDS today to learn more about how we can make the process painless.

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