Big Pharma Exploring and Moving Data to the Cloud – IT Execs Talk about How It is Being Done
Posted May 29 2009 10:46pm
Amazon, Google and Microsoft are the 3 big players for now in the Cloud market. For the purpose of this post, we are talking about external clouds. There is also the internal cloud which is a virtual machine configuration. The FDA already trusts secure external servers for e-mail communication of clinical trial data, and recently were testing their own internal or private cloud.
Some of the very interesting comments from the IT Heads from the Pharma companies listed below are really stated best from Lilly, when you look at what they were dealing with. Scientists were having to wait their turn in line as capacity hit, so scientists were submitting and having to wait until the computing power was available. Not only this issue, but the cost savings was huge, and to set up local servers and power, it would have taken 12 weeks to set up. Basically the process is harnessing the power of the internet instead of the local data warehouses and server.
If you want to see what an external cloud looks like, you can read a bit more here and see. This is the same thing we do with our PHRs, they are stored in the clouds(grin). BD
Pfizer,Eli Lilly & Co.,Johnson & Johnson, andGenentech are among the drugmakers that are piloting into an emerging area of IT services called cloud computing, in which large, consumer-oriented computing firms offer time on their huge and dispersed infrastructures on a pay-as-you-go basis. These drug companies are among the first to gauge the cost- and time-saving pros and the potential management and security cons in this largely uncharted territory.
The concept of cloud computing, based on technologies that already support e-mail and search services, has burst onto the IT scene during the past year. Success stories have already been logged across a range of industries and government organizations, including the White House, which used Google cloud services to handle the questions sent to President Barack Obama during his March 26 town hall meeting. The White House was able to field a peak of 700 e-mail hits per second from 92,934 people submitting 104,073 questions and casting 3,605,984 votes in the 48 hours leading up to the meeting.
And Lilly has demonstrated the viability of cloud computing in pharmaceutical R&D, according to Dave Powers, the firm's associate information consultant for discovery IT. " We were recently able to launch a 64-machine cluster computer working on bioinformatics sequence information, complete the work, and shut it down in 20 minutes," he says, describing a project the firm executed using Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service. "It cost $6.40. To do that internally—to go from nothing to getting a 64-machine cluster installed and qualified—is a 12-week process."
The result is that for days at a time our clusters are at 100% of capacity. This means there are actually scientists who have work to be done that is literally sitting in a queue." Although exact cost savings are difficult to calculate, they are clearly significant, according to Powers and Kaczorek, as are the time savings.
“Pfizer is beginning to employ cloud computing in other research operations, but there are some downsides, Day says, one being that users must come up with their own programming to coordinate with cloud service providers. Pfizer is working with the BioTeam, a consulting firm, on connecting its work to the cloud. Lilly is using software and services from two suppliers, Cycle Computing and RightScale, to access Amazon's network and manage the transfer of data onto and off of the cloud.
Merck, though, has not taken the plunge. The company has amassed a computer center at Seattle-based Rosetta, which it acquired in 2001, with about 10,000 processors and an elaborate Internet-based architecture allowing researchers working on thousands of projects anywhere at Merck to access data from storage. But that situation is about to change.
In the coming months, Merck will be handing the Rosetta computer cluster, and a majority of the data therein, to a nonprofit bioinformatics database called Sage Bionetwork being formed by Schadt and Stephen Friend, senior vice president and oncology franchise head at Merck Research Laboratories. The drug firm, which will have open access to Sage, will consolidate research computing at its new Center of Excellence for Molecular Profiling & Research Informatics, in Boston. Meanwhile, Sage will pursue partnerships with other public and private research centers in order to expand the database. Sage, as it develops, may well incorporate cloud computing, according to Schadt.
"It is one thing to get the data up there, another to interact and work with it," he says. " That is done through applications hosted on Azure. Microsoft won't build those applications. We provide a framework and fabric that can host the user's applications. Anything users can do locally and adapt to the Internet can run on the cloud."