Today’s “Monday Blog” article is brought to us by a guest author, Mohamed Ayad, with the article focusing on how to Partner with Microsoft in the Cloud.  It’s a great article, well named, and clearly positions Microsoft as a player in the cloud, with further announcements on Part 11 and GxP to come.  Read on and stay tuned! – Les


Partnering with Microsoft in the Cloud

Mohamed Ayad, MD, MSIS, MBA

In recent months, there has been a flurry of activity around Microsoft’s cloud platforms that are gaining traction in the Life Sciences industry. Partnering with Microsoft in the cloud is about more than just virtualization or lowering the cost of IT. It is about doing new things in new ways.

As Microsoft transitions to become a devices and services company we are committed to becoming the trusted steward of data, and the provider of choice for information and communication technology. Not only will Microsoft provide ICT as a scalable, flexible, highly available, and low cost utility, in fact, the Microsoft cloud can be the trusted hub for shared services, applications, data, collaboration and communication. This can allow life sciences organizations to extend capabilities from the cloud across a plethora of devices traversing geographical and organizational boundaries, liberate data from disconnected silos, and dramatically increase business agility.

An important enabler of this vision is the ability to support the compliance needs of organizations operating in the Life Sciences industry. Microsoft provides customers and partners with a full range of cloud services operating under one framework for governance, risk and compliance: team communication and collaboration through Office 365, application and data processing and hosting on Windows Azure, and relationship management on CRM Online. This is a unique differentiator for Microsoft as no other major cloud provider can offer this breadth of compliance supporting capabilities. Rather than go to Google, Salesforce, and Amazon for a similar set of IT capabilities that may lack full compliance support, Microsoft enables decision makers to consolidate risk, leverage the same datacenter environment for these different capabilities, and leverage their technology partnership with Microsoft which is often the most cost effective. For example, customers leveraging Azure through a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement can receive up to a 30% discount off of retail pricing for the same service.

To do so, Microsoft operates with complete transparency when it comes to cloud services. We make available to customers a one-stop portal for security, privacy and compliance information through the Windows Azure and Online Services Trust Centers. These trust centers contain links to our ISO 27001 and EU Safe Harbor certifications, our Standard Response to Requests for Information on Security and Privacy and a number of whitepapers that help with understanding security on our platforms and how to build secure applications. We also make our SSAE16 SOC reports available to customers under NDA which include our auditor’s assessments of our cloud environments. Several of our customers and partners have used the accumulation of this documentation to qualify Microsoft cloud platforms for FDA regulated workloads. To make this review easier for our industry customers and partners, we are currently in the process of reviewing our GxP processes and hope to have further news in June 2013.

Another important enabler is the ability to offer flexible cloud deployment strategies. We understand that the cloud is not an all or none decision and that different cloud models are better suited for different business needs. We have to support our customers and partners’ needs for hybrid deployments and we have to give them choice to use SaaS, PaaS or IaaS capabilities. For example, customers and partners can choose between using SharePoint Online as part of Office 365 in a “SaaS” environment, or with Windows Azure Virtual Machines now in general availability and covered by our financially backed SLA’s, deploying SharePoint Server on Windows Azure Virtual Machines in a “IaaS” service model. To support hybrid scenarios, customers and partners can set up a VPN to connect their data center to the Microsoft Azure environment, and use System Center to manage both environments from one pane of glass.

Finally, it is important to recognize that Microsoft is not merely a hoster, but truly aspiring to be the technology partner and service provider for the future. To support this, Microsoft has invested in a highly qualified team of industry experts with deep knowledge of the Life Sciences space and dedicated account teams and cloud technology incubation teams to support our customers from ideation to successful deployment. These teams helps to bridge the gap between technology, business and industry to ensure your success.

An eclip_image002[7]xample of this is Microsoft’s work with Mission3, on their Clireo Platform, which is a cloud system used to handle tons of documents and securely support loads of users, both internal and external to a Life Sciences company. The system is designed to easily meet several specific needs of Life Science companies. The solution includes Clireo eTMF, Clireo eDMS, Clireo Submissions, and Clireo eMPM (management of promotional material); each of which can be configured specifically for the business.

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Mission3 was first to the cloud with regulatory document management for Life Sciences helping companies that want reliable, easy-to-use, and quick-to-implement solutions that meet all of their regulatory needs including compliance with eCTD and CFR 21 Part 11. Now Mission3 has migrated to Microsoft Windows Azure, which Dirk Beth, CEO of Mission3 says provides them with “global redundancy, cost effectiveness, scalability…security and a number of integrated functions.  Further, Microsoft has provided a compliance and qualified infrastructure for partners to build applications for regulated industries.”

clip_image001Another example is the work done by Digital Infuzion. Their N of 1 Health Research Platform (“N of 1 Platform™”) is a software-as-a-service solution that provides tools for physicians and other care team members to collect, monitor, and report on data and medical knowledge related to observational research, chronic disease, and patient outcomes. This research platform is scalable, employs standards-based infrastructure for data source integrations, and provides an excellent research experience for the healthcare providers and patients participating in studies, from disease registries to observational studies, from biopharma companies to research organizations and academic medical centers. To drive Digital Infuzion’s success, Microsoft provided support in many aspects, from technology specialists and architects to assistance with RFP responses, from providing support for Visual Studio to a scalability options to size their infrastructure appropriately.  In the end, Christopher Jones, Program Manager for N of 1 said that it was all “these features [which] enabled us to create a slim Dev and Test environments but [to also] create a robust Production environment”.

In summation, working with Microsoft technologies is about more than just hosting, it is truly about creating a technology partnership for the future that enables our partners and customers to securely, reliably, flexibly and cost effectively focus on their core expertise.

If you are interested in finding out how to be a partner focused on cloud solutions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Les, myself or any of our colleagues via our Life Sciences e-mail address at Microsoft: Part11@microsoft.com