Rancho BioSciences Harnesses the Power of Big DataBy Samuel Greengard
Big data and analytics are at the heart of today's biosciences and pharmaceutical industries. The ability to crunch numbers and understand complex equations is critical. But building an IT environment that can deliver massive processing power and accommodate storage and other requirements is nothing less than daunting.
"There are sometimes terabytes of data to deal with and the ability to process data rapidly and efficiently is extremely important," said Julie Bryant, CEO at Rancho BioSciences, a San Diego, Calif., firm that handles sophisticated data analysis for genomic and clinical data sets.
As a result, Rancho BioSciences has partnered with British Telecom (BT) to deliver a cloud-based IT infrastructure that's robust enough to address the needs of customers. The infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform, which incorporates an open-source data analytics platform called tranSmart (managed by the tranSmart Foundation and founded by Johnson & Johnson in 2009) offers an environment that keeps the company at the leading edge of scientific data analysis.
"The pharma industry has in many cases hit the limits for what companies can do internally on their own IT platforms," Bryant explained. "Instead, they are looking to outsource data curation and data organization functions."
The BT Cloud Compute environment provides a pre-provisioned data center infrastructure that allows Rancho BioSciences to adjust processing power and other resources dynamically. Bryant said that this approach reduces the need for customers to handle complex licensing agreements, manage patches and updates and handle other administrative IT tasks that devour time and resources. The IaaS environment also delivers robust access management and security (such as the ability to ensure that applications and data stay in a specific geographic location), a workbench with role-based access rights, and tools that facilitate adherence to regulatory requirements, including across international borders.
The tranSmart platform, which includes more than 20 corporate, academic, not-for-profit and government entities, also benefits Rancho BioSciences by providing rapid updates under the open-source model. "The infrastructure provides a great deal of flexibility and scalability. Because everything is in the cloud it's much easier to make changes without the usual process of making phone calls, issuing tickets and staff handling various tasks," Bryant said. Rancho BioSciences has an IT staff of less than 20 and, as a result of the cloud-based approach, it is able to use its internal staffing and resources more efficiently. In addition, the firm is able to provide pay-as-you-go resources and billing for its customers.
In fact, the tranSmart platform and underlying IaaS framework is changing the view on data and intellectual property.
"Even five years ago the idea of sharing resources and putting things in the public domain was frightening and unattractive to the pharma industry," she pointed out. "We are now able to build out an IT platform that allows organizations to share resources but manage and protect their confidential data. We want to help them cure horrible diseases and solve medical challenges. This IT environment introduces computing capabilities and business models that weren't possible in the past," Bryant said.