Advantages of Leveraging the Cloud
Typically, Maches explained to GEN, life science firms use three types of cloud services: IAAS (infrastructure as a service) for companies that can’t support the required infrastructure themselves; PAAS (platform as a service) to build applications the customer relationship management and similar processes; and SAAS (software as a service), which includes cloud-based informatics solutions.
Maches noted that he is seeing a lot of large firms offering services more oriented to the life sciences and building dedicated practices. “Companies I speak to have had issues because many high-tech company representatives knew nothing about drug discovery or regulatory issues.”
Bedi also predicted that cloud-based service providers will develop more applications to enable biotech and pharma research processes. He pointed to providers like Oracle that already deliver specific applications for R&D clients in the cloud environment.
For example, he noted, “you can execute a clinical trial using cloud structure for data collection through to management and regulatory packaging, and you can buy the software and the infrastructure without worrying about buying hardware, or even a laptop.”
Commenting on how cloud-based services are changing the way life science firms like those focused on drug discovery manage data, Bedi said, “traditionally, these companies would have to invest in new hardware and software, and during peak demand, they would have to buy up hardware to meet that peak demand. But most of the time, the hardware was sitting unutilized. That was very expensive.” What the cloud allows smaller firms to do is buy into a larger pool of infrastructure on demand, Bedi concluded.
While the cloud is gaining increased acceptance as a means to quickly and more cheaply provide resources for life science firms that do not have enough internal resources, Maches remarked that even companies with more in-house infrastructure can find advantages. They use the cloud for “bursting” capabilities when demand for resources is high, he explained.
“Lilly, for example, was doing computational chemistry and figured it would need hundreds of servers to validate and manage the data,” Maches told GEN. “And it would take several days for the servers to crunch through the data. It would have cost them hundreds of thousands to install a sufficient number of servers to accomplish what they needed to do. Using the cloud, they had access to 3,000 virtual servers, for dollars in the teens.”