Over the last 12 months, I’ve been doing a lot of incubation work in the Cloud Computing space throughout the Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry. The results from these early efforts have been interesting…and are relevant to any Healthcare or Life Sciences organization interested in using the cloud for business application purposes. To get the word out on these efforts, I’m sponsored a series on local Cloud Computing info exchange events. On June 8th, I held a Life Sciences Cloud Computing event @ the Hilton in Iselin, NJ.  Close to 50 people from the Life Sciences Industry attended the event…although the event did include a Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform Overview, the bulk of the presentations/demonstration were dedicated to “real world” solutions examples…that I believe will manifest themselves as solution patterns that apply broadly across the entire Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry.  The following solutions patterns were showcased at the event;

  • “HPC in the Cloud”
  • “Working Securely in the Cloud”
  • “Giving the Cloud a visually appealing head”

For more information on the content from the event, please visit the Microsoft Pharmaceutical Deployment User Group website: http://MSPDUG.spaces.live.com

So let’s talk about this HPC in a cloud for Life Sciences thing…

“HPC in the Cloud”:  High Performance Computing (HPC) is definitely core requirement for the Life Sciences industry…they have lot’s of long running Scientific applications that require on-demand compute resources.  Currently, these applications are run on dedicated hardware or on-premise managed Grid facilities.  The current approach is suboptimal from a cost, scale, performance, and overall processing/results turnaround time perspective.On average, it takes several hours for many of these applications to run…in many cases they fail to complete due to memory and/or CPU availability.  As a rule of thumb, It takes10 years and $1 billion to bring a drug to market…finding ways to shorten research & development timeframes can add hundreds of millions to a drugs overall revenue stream.  Everyone is looking to cloud computing as a better way to HPC from a cost, scale, performance, and availability perspective. 

We just completed a 30 day Windows Azure HPC PoC with JNJ’s R&D IT organization.  For the PoC, we selected a typical Scientific Computation application…2D Molecular structure inputs, algorithmic calculations, 3D Visual output.  Intent was to move the existing application .exe into Windows Azure to test cost, availability, scale, and performance.

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  JNJ representatives presented results from the PoC @ the June 8th Life Sciences Cloud Computing event.  Results from the PoC were very positive.  They saw a 100X reduction in end to end processing time for a typical request.  Cost, although not quantifiable at this stage, will certainly be appreciably less than dedicated resource alternative.  I want to err a word of caution…this is a capabilities validation exercise…although initial results are very promising…we still have some work to do before I would consider this to be a turnkey cloud capability.  Nevertheless, there is no denying that this is a killer solutions pattern for cloud computing…stay tuned for info on the subject.