Now that we’ve built a common understanding of cloud fundamentals and examined how a typical customer begins adopting cloud technologies as part of their IT ecosystem, let’s look at some examples of the intrinsic value that the cloud model provides. Cloud is more than just a delivery model. It provides a unique set of benefits and capabilities to help accelerate innovation. These specific use cases help demonstrate the value proposition of cloud. This blog highlights three unique benefits of cloud: real-time collaboration; aggregating data from diverse sources; and workflow automation.
Real-time collaboration with cloud
Research is becoming more collaborative, with partnerships spanning the commercial, startup and government divides. Cloud can help facilitate and accelerate these efforts. With individual laboratories pushing their data to their own virtual private clouds, it is possible to replicate all or specified portions of data into a shared cloud in real time. The new collaborative cloud environment can then be accessed by additional researchers or even sophisticated analytical services such as AI or Machine Learning.
Cloud provides an unmatched environment for real-time collaboration. Not so long ago, working with sequence data meant manually shipping hard drives full of sequence code back and forth to different partners. You would wait until you received your hard drive in the mail, then you’d connect it to your network, run some analyses, then send it back. It was a long, cumbersome process. That’s all changed with cloud. Cloud helps to facilitate collaboration without the delay.
With cloud, this collaboration can happen in real time, even with the massive amounts of data in a sequence. You can maintain your own virtual private cloud or secure environment for your data, then choose which data you’d like to share. Pushing shared data to a neutral, third-party cloud space would provide a collaborative environment for anyone who has interest in that data. Scientists can access the data and work in real time, pursuing innovation and new discoveries while maintaining a secure and segregated individual data cloud.
The real-time collaboration capabilities offered in the cloud are especially valuable when you think about the early research phase, especially for pharmaceutical companies. Biologics and large molecule development is no longer something that can be completed in-house by one organization. There needs to be collaboration with smaller, specialized organizations, academic bodies, and government agencies. A third-party neutral space that is segregated from your own data is a great example of the cloud value proposition.
Aggregating diverse data sources
The second unique value that cloud brings is the ability to aggregate diverse data sources. With more devices being connected to the internet, data can be collected and collated automatically in the same place from anywhere in the world. This includes the new wave of “smart” laboratory instruments such as PCR or NGS equipment, or wearables that are gaining increased traction in clinical trials. This need is even more pronounced as clinical trials begin to shift to a more decentralized structure.
You might argue that you can do that now with a private cloud, and to a degree you are right. However, a private cloud setup requires significant uplift in your internal IT proficiencies. There’s significant effort involved in making sure all the integration points are available, in terms of both hardware and networking settings.
A cloud model enables automation of much of that work. Many of those integration points are pre-established by manufacturers and cloud providers. And with cloud, you’re not limited by geographic proximity. Because the cloud is available and spread across continents, the data sources can be input into the same cloud repository from anywhere in the world. You can have multiple scientists from multiple organization aggregating data in a collaborative space, or multiple facilities at different locations within your organization plugging information into your cloud.
Wearables are another interesting use case. We’ve seen a lot of decentralized trials adopt wearables to help monitor subjects that don’t have to stay in a clinic for their entire test duration. You can monitor subjects and patients at home and push that data directly to the cloud.
Automating lab workflows with microservices
Another unique value that cloud delivers is automation. Access to numerous services developed by credible organizations around the world that can quickly automate data transformations and analysis may be the most exciting value that cloud provides. One such example is some of the automation services that are available for genomics in not only compiling sequence fragments, but also identifying patterns for further investigation by the scientist.
Most organizations that are implementing cloud as part of their IT strategy are pursuing some level of automation. Automation can take different forms, but most organizations are interested in reducing the human intervention required to complete tasks, while taking advantage of the mammoth compute powers available through the cloud.
Consider the role of automation in the sequencing workflows. You produce huge amounts of sequence fragments within the laboratory. To do this type of computation before cloud, you’d need massive compute resources within your laboratory and within your network. With cloud, you can use containerized microservices to collate the sequence fragments automatically and store them in complete sequences in the cloud. From there, other discrete microservices might analyze those sequences to perform a snip analysis, for example. This all happens outside the laboratory in automated fashion and all without having to build the internal infrastructure to crunch this amount of data.
Automation is a key value driver for cloud, and these types of automated microservices are growing daily. Whatever problem you’re trying to solve, there’s a good chance you can find a microservice to help solve it.
If your organization is thinking about cloud, watch our Leveraging Cloud: The Benefits of adopting cloud-based solutions webinar on demand or visit our SampleManager LIMS software cloud services website to learn more.