Cloud Computing and Life Sciences IT

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Learning effective ways to bring in innovation within your IT budget

I wanted to learn more about ‘cloud computing’ where the idea came from, etc. I was also curious how this could apply to Life Sciences IT where ‘regulatory compliance’ is always the issue, and from a budget perspective (capital versus operating). Cloud computing seems to be a way to bring in new innovation at minimal impact to IT budgets. So in this blog I will summarize these areas for you.

Where did this concept originate?   

Cloud computing can be an area of concern and confusion in most organizations. Like most of us we leverage Google Mail and other web applications from a personal perspective. Even when creating this blog I rely on several applications that only exist in the ‘cloud.’ Yet there are a few examples where I’ve been told that these applications ‘violate’ IT security policies. I tend to believe that excuses like this are just because we are unaware of the benefit of this technology. Where the technology resides should not make a difference. We will get to the Life Sciences part in a moment. Let’s start with ‘what is cloud computing.’ In a recent blog from In(tegrate) the cloud, 29Jan2010: The Impact of the Gartner Magic Quadrant referenced a YouTube video by Simon Wardley Cloud Computing Why IT Matters. You will find this to be an entertaining presentation on ‘what is Cloud Computing’ and how technological changes are inevitable. I came away with the fact that cloud computing is not limited to a single vendor or application. I personally like the way Simon presents this topic both: visual and auditory – nice job. So with this you have a better sense for ‘cloud computing.’

The next ‘disruptive’ force in IT so is this something we need to consider?

Yes – for some of us we can remember the move to client-server. Companies like SAP that came to the US and revolutionized how businesses were run. Now we the next big change will be in the use of ‘cloud computing.’ In the 18Jan2010 Information Week article by Bob Evans: Top 10 CIO Issues for 2010. I would agree with his number one issue that he titles: ‘The Cloud imperative,’ followed by ‘The 80/20 spending trap.’ This describes that not enough dollars are spent on making IT support the business in driving revenue and customer ‘intimacy.’ I had recently met with an IT executive in India, and he told me he is set with his IT solutions – what he is looking for are ways to leverage ideas that drive revenue for his company. So the signs are out there to embrace change – cloud computing can be a solution.

Who in Life Sciences IT is doing this and what to consider when getting into this area?

This brings us to Life Sciences IT where traditional business solutions must be compliant to the FDA regulations. Taking the lead in the use of cloud computing is Eli Lilly. The article entitled “Lilly’s Head Is in the Clouds” by Paul Thomas, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing summarizes how Lilly has approached the use of cloud computing for advanced analytics for their R&D and business operations. The article points out the various vendors in this space and their use of a ‘private’ cloud for internal use. I agree with the Lilly representative, David Powers, that manufacturing applications would not be run as a cloud application. I was impressed with Lilly’s use of technology and how it provides innovation and value for their business.

What are some steps that you can take to begin to do this for your company?

  • Seek out applications that address revenue or customer projects that would help your business.
  • Speak to your IT service providers to see if they have ‘test’ sites or ‘labs’ to help you envision what your cloud application would operate.
  • Determine if this application will need to be ‘integrated’ with your back-end business system.
  • Examine if there are ‘regulatory’ compliance issues. If you can define your business process – you can take the steps to ensure your business process can be ‘validated.’ You can do this internally with you own resources – or ask for help from 3rd party vendors.

When you talk about costs the traditional ERP vendors charge you license and maintenance fees which fall under ‘capital’ costs. Cloud computing applications are ‘rented’ so the cost savings is in the fact that this typically falls under ‘operating’ costs. There are additional savings in that there is no server, or software to load. Depending on the application many vendors will provide a guarantee ‘up time’ for their applications.

I hope your find this posting useful…..Thanks, Jim

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