The computing resources needed to handle genome data will soon exceed those of Twitter and YouTube, says a team of biologists and computer scientists who are worried that their discipline is not geared up to cope with the coming genomics flood.
Other computing experts say that such a comparison with other ‘big data’ areas is not convincing and a little glib. But they agree that the computing needs of genomics will be enormous as sequencing costs drop and ever more genomes are analysed.
By 2025, between 100 million and 2 billion human genomes could have been sequenced, according to the report, which is published in the journal PLoS Biology. The data-storage demands for this alone could run to as much as 2 to 40 exabytes (1 exabyte is 1018 bytes), because the number of data that must be stored for a single genome are 30 times larger than the size of the genome itself, to make up for errors incurred during sequencing and preliminary analysis.
“This serves as a clarion call that genomics is going to pose some severe challenges,” says biologist Gene Robinson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), a co-author of the paper. “Some major change is going to need to happen to handle the volume of data and speed of analysis that will be required.”
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