Informatics & The Cloud

Informatics and the CloudThe buzz surrounding Cloud Computing has been going on for quite a while.  Everyone knows that cloud computing (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) has tangible advantages and benefits. These are not just monetary, like lowering IT costs and reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), but also include increasing business agility, computing power, and storage capacity as wells as fostering collaboration.  Cloud computing is real and its total worldwide addressable market in 2014 will reach $155.8B, an increase of 126.5 percent from 2011.  But the question begs: are informatics applications being run in the cloud?  If so, in what manner and who is doing so.  If not, what’s the hold up?

Informatics systems offered in the cloud are primarily Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings.  This can be accomplished either through a public or private cloud.  A public cloud informatics system has multiple companies utilizing the same code base simultaneously; however, the data for each is kept separate through security means.  In a private cloud informatics system only one company and their designated agents and partners are utilizing the code base.  The private cloud orientation is basically your own system that is being hosted and maintained by the provider.  In both configurations, systems and instrument integration are fully supported although private clouds support more personalized customization.

Watch Webinar: "Laboratory Information Management, the Cloud, & You"It’s been said that the march towards informatics in the cloud is “inexorable”.  Resistance is futile!  And it may be the death knells of many an informatics company that will no longer be able to garner large initial software license sales.  Be that as it may, the reality is, yes, informatics systems and solutions are being run in the cloud.  This includes public and private Clouds where the informatics system is offered in a SaaS mode and utilized across all industries, both regulated and non-regulated.  The largest business segment embracing informatics in the cloud is small to mid-sized businesses while the large business segment is lagging.  This trend, while not surprising, is not occurring solely for financial reasons.

Cloud Informatics for Small to Mid-sized Businesses

Small to mid-sized businesses (regulated and non-regulated) are employing cloud informatics systems in both public and private clouds. They have embraced SaaS for many reasons including:

  • They are less expensive – especially the initial startup costs as there is no need to purchase software licenses, database licenses and hardware.
    (OK it’s true; money is a key factor but not the only reason – read on…)
  • These organizations tend to have small or sometimes no IT department so the SaaS model is perfect for them.
  • There is little if any IT resistance since there is a limited or no IT group.
  • But by far the largest reason is the lack of a complex IT environment.  Therefore, there is no need to overhaul the IT infrastructure to embrace the cloud.

So having less is actually better!

Cloud Informatics for Large Businesses

Large companies have started utilizing cloud informatics systems but adoption has been slow.  This is very evident in tier 1 pharmaceutical companies where although the cloud’s promise of “better, bigger, cheaper, and faster” is very persuasive, there are a number of concerns holding them back:

  • First and foremost are perceived security concerns.  Data security is a huge concern for pharmaceutical companies and even though studies have shown that cloud computing has increased data security for those utilizing it; pharma remains paranoid on this topic.
  • There are accessibility concerns based on network bandwidth and availability.
  • Pharmaceutical companies and other large businesses generally have complex IT environments and going to the cloud might require an IT overhaul and expenditure for new hardware and software licenses.
  • Finally, there are high levels of IT resistance: the turf war!

However, with the every growing need for data storage driven by laboratories pumping out huge amounts of data, especially next generation gene sequencing data, the utilization of the cloud by the pharmaceutical industry is really inevitable.

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Has your business taken the leap and adopted the cloud?  If so, what informatics systems are you running?  Are you running in a public or private cloud?  If not, what is holding you back?

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