Are We Facing a Digital Storage Crisis?


June 30, 2022

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Our data storage needs are increasing at a mindboggling level. In 2020, the world required 33 zettabytes of storage capacity. By 2025, experts predict that we’ll need 175 zettabytes of capacity. Semiconductors are an important part of this equation, since they provide the computing power that allows for data storage.

We’ve discussed at length Moore’s Law, which has fueled much of our ability to store these large amounts of data. As that dynamic slows down, it’s worth considering whether we’re headed for a data storage crisis. Can technical innovations like float zone wafers help us keep up?

Today, we’ll discuss what you need to know about data storage and the future.

How Much Storage Space Do We Need?

Our data storage needs are increasing exponentially, as more people begin to use the internet, and our standards for the amount and quality of data storage grows. Experts predict that we’ll need:

  • 572 zettabytes of data storage capacity by 2030
  • 50,000-500,000 zettabytes of data storage capacity by 2050

Of course, this is looking at storage needs on a societal level. While experts predict that we’ll continue to find new ways to store ever-larger amounts of data, this may not always apply on the individual level.

How Do We Currently Store Data?

As technology has evolved, humanity has come up with several different ways to store data. Here are three of the most popular:

  • Hard Drives
  • Magnetic Tapes
  • Optical Discs

It’s important to note that there’s always a physical component to digital storage. While it can feel unlimited and immaterial on the user’s end, it ultimately needs to be stored somewhere. Even human memories are stored in engrams.

How Globalization Has Impacted Data Storage

It’s interesting to note that globalization has had a significant impact on a nation’s ability to store data. Russia, for instance, is struggling to ensure it has the data capacity it needs now that sanctions have led Western cloud providers to stop offering storage.

Several solutions have been proposed, since Russian data centers cannot offer the requisite amount of storage capacity. The government is looking into taking over data centers left behind by Western companies.

It’s also considering cutting off access to streaming services, which would greatly reduce the load being put on data storage facilities.

Some companies have been using data storage systems overseas to handle Russian customer services, but the government has given out fines for this overseas data storage.

float zone wafer used by engineers to solve digital storage crisis

How DNA Can Help

DNA stores a nearly unfathomable amount of data. By itself, it can store nearly one zettabyte of data. This means that, even if our needs increase exponentially, it will make the physical requirements of this storage immaterial.

Researchers have been working to find a way to utilize DNA for data storage. Specifically, they’re encoding information by creating DNA. These DNA strings are interpreted with four letters – A, T, C, and G – which means that reading the DNA sequence allows computers to understand the encoded data.

This process used to be cost prohibitive: worth further research but not yet ready for use by private or commercial entities. That said, this cost has gone down significantly. Researchers have automated the process of storing and receiving data. Catalog Technologies went so far as to encode all the information available on Wikipedia into DNA.

Right now, organizations with massive amounts of data are already looking into DNA storage. For instance, Twitch, Netflix, and Microsoft are all pursuing projects in this vein. As it becomes more common and cost-effective, it is expected that more companies will pursue this option.

Along with size, DNA also offers a significant advantage in terms of longevity. Whereas magnetic tapes need to be replaced every 30 years, DNA can last hundreds of thousands of years.

Will We Be Able to Find Data?

Along with making sure we have the necessary amount of data, it will also be important to help people find the data they need. The more that this information is stored, the more stuff needs to get sifted through.

This issue is currently being handled by the biggest data warehouse companies, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as technology allows us to store increasingly larger amounts of data.

Are We Storing Too Much Data?

While technology does promise an interesting path forward, some people are also raising a philosophical question: do we need to store all this data in the first place?

For most of human history, it’s been assumed that most information would be lost. While literature promised the ability to record human memory and pass it down from one generation to the next, and while painting promised the ability to remember images, both of these were imperfect arts.

It was only with the invention of photography in 1826 that people began to expect to preserve visual memories with fidelity. Even then, pictures would take a long time to develop, and they made people of the era look serious because it was so difficult to capture a smile on camera.

On a personal level, essayists have begun wondering if it’s healthy to spend so much time recording every moment of their lives. On a societal level, there’s also been increasing concerns over Big Data. Should we record everything? If we do, do all those records need to be stored in perpetuity?

While the chances are high that technology will allow us to overcome our current storage crisis, the fact that our needs are growing exponentially gives us reason to pause and ask: what data should we keep forever?

wafer world employee working on a float zone wafer

Looking for Float Zone Wafers?

Wafer World has you covered. For years, our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities have been helping businesses get the high-quality wafers they need. Our presence in the United States means less worrying about the delicacies of overseas supply chains.

Do you have any questions about what we can do for you? Would you like to speak with one of our representatives to ensure you’re getting the wafers that are perfect for your business? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We’re excited to speak with you.

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