February 14, 2012

Biotech Firm Doubles Down on Amazon Cloud

Tiffany Trader

Life science companies are increasingly looking to the cloud as a way of facilitating more efficient business models. That was the case with Metrum Research Group, a Connecticut-based biotech firm that transferred its entire IT infrastructure onto the Amazon cloud.

biotech, cloudWhile many companies are comfortable taking cloud baby steps, Metrum made the big leap into the fluffy white stuff. According to an article in Bio-IT World, the company “is leveraging the capabilities of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its core pharmacometrics technology platform, with Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3), and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) services. Highly secure VPC environments are under development and nearing deployment.”

Before the switch, Metrum, ran its modeling and simulation workloads on a traditional co-located computational grid system comprised of six servers and 32 cores. Due to uneven resource demand, it was common for the grid to be over- or under-subscribed, not the best use of resources. During busy times, 32 cores was not enough, Jeffrey Hane, CIO and COO of Metrum Research Group, tells BIO-IT World, and other times a portion of the cores sat idle.

As the company grew, it became clear that they needed to expand their computing infrastructure. “Unlimited, flexible compute power was the driving force to go to the cloud. We also wanted to simplify, and we didn’t want a hybrid system. So we opted to move everything up,” explains Hane.

The cloud deployment has been up and running for several months now and Hane outlines several benefits. Whereas the entire company previously shared 32 cores, now each scientist has access to at least 100 multicore instances launched on demand from their workstations. This increase in computational power has led to quicker turnaround times. In some cases, this means a return measured in hours instead of days. Hane explains that while the system is much easier to manage, costs are about the same as before. Plus he anticipates that increased customer satisfaction will result in a higher ROI.

As for potential drawbacks, the COO notes that despite having increased control over system compliance, he fully expects to be challenged under FDA compliance guidelines (21 CFR Part 11). Being able to identify improvements and employing security tools will assist the company in explaining their position.