The Composable Future of Genomics Research

By Yael Shani, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences

July 2, 2018

Healthcare is evolving rapidly. Nothing demonstrates this fact more clearly than genomics. The original Human Genome Project took 13 years to complete and cost $2.7 billion. Today, according to IDC, whole-genome sequencing costs less than $1,000 and can be completed in as little as 27 hours.

Genomics medicine is the direction in which the healthcare industry is moving. Healthcare providers want to target diseases more precisely with treatment specific to each patient. But this level of care relies on access to each patient’s individual genomics information – and that requires the ability to process massive amounts of genomics data quickly.

In order to keep pace – and more importantly, to support and even drive change in healthcare – its underlying IT infrastructure must have the ability to change and evolve just as quickly.

Therefore, hospitals, genome centers, pharmaceutical companies, medical research centers, and other clinical institutes need to explore new methods of storing, accessing, securing, managing, sharing, and analyzing significant amounts of genomics data. Healthcare and life sciences organizations that are running data-intensive genomics workloads on an IT infrastructure that lacks scalability, flexibility, performance, management, and cognitive capabilities need to modernize and transform their infrastructure to support current and future requirements.

Genomics and disease research provide unique analytical challenges to IT, with large, high velocity, and diverse data sets, strict regulatory compliance requirements, and complex workflows with different input/output characterization. Beyond the complex analytics involved in making genomics a foundational part of our healthcare future, the simple volume of data becomes a serious challenge. IDC predicts that by 2020, healthcare activities collectively will have generated two Zettabytes of raw data – that’s thousands of terabytes in just the next few years!

What kind of IT infrastructure can address the magnitude and complexity of such IT challenges in a way that prevents costs from skyrocketing? Healthcare IT architects are focusing on solutions that combine Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI); High Performance Computing (HPC); and modular compute, storage, and network concepts to effectively drive the digital future in healthcare and life sciences.

One such solution architecture for healthcare is based on the principles of “composable” infrastructure. It enables healthcare IT architects and IT administrators to build IT infrastructure in a way that separates or “disaggregates” the underlying compute, storage, and network services. Disaggregated services can provide the required flexibility that enables the IT infrastructure to be sliced, diced, expanded, and contracted based on actual need. Such a composable building block-based approach allows healthcare organizations to most effectively and flexibly store, access, manage, share, and analyze huge volumes of information, especially genome sequencing data.

IBM offers an integrated composable infrastructure solution for genomics based on IBM Spectrum Scale™. IBM Spectrum Scale is a proven, highly scalable, high performance data and file management solution that provides simplified data management and integrated information lifecycle tools capable of managing petabytes of data and billions of files. IBM Spectrum Scale started out as a file system for high performance computing but has evolved into so much more. Today it’s a full-featured set of file data management tools, including advanced storage virtualization, integrated high availability, automated tiered storage management, and high performance configurations to effectively manage very large quantities of file data. Spectrum Scale is designed to support a wide range of application workloads using a variety of access protocols and has been proven extremely effective in very large, demanding environments.

The IBM integrated solution for genomics workloads based on IBM Spectrum Scale offers many benefits:

  • It’s a single, cohesive, easy-to-deploy solution for genomics workloads based on the principles of composable infrastructure using IBM SDI components. It includes three disaggregated building blocks: storage services, compute services, and network services.
  • The solution is based on best practices of fully tested and detailed architecture definitions. It enables IT architects to quickly design and implement an end-to-end genomics solution, integrate selected building blocks into existing infrastructure, and have each individual resource scale independently – thus protecting already-made investments.
  • It’s a policy-driven storage building block approach based on IBM Spectrum Scale designed for high-performance and large-scale workloads with integrated data analytics. Healthcare IT architects can start small and scale out quickly based on needs with flexible deployment options.

In the increasingly competitive healthcare and life sciences IT market, the IBM integrated solution for genomics based on composable building blocks using IBM Spectrum Scale is ready and able to take on the digital challenge today, helping healthcare organizations deal with data-intensive genomics workloads and accelerate discoveries at a lower cost.

Read the IDC InfoBrief on the latest research challenges and the modular approach to genomics infrastructure at scale and learn more about how your IT team can help drive change – instead of simply reacting to it.

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