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Sep 15, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 16)

Clouds Take Computing to New Heights

Pharmaceutical Firms and Biotech Companies Begin to Take Close Look at Evolving Technology

  • Management

    “The ability to manage the data effectively is where a lot of biotech companies are struggling,” Dr. Miller says. “We extended our internal network, but users have to tell me whether they want to run on Amazon’s cloud or on internal resources.” 

    Pfizer makes that choice available only to its expert users in computational scientists in biology, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, or statistics. The behavior of the internal and cloud-based instances is identical, so their decisions may be governed by the need for computing power or the need to maintain physical control of the data, among other potential reasons.

  • Important Questions to Ask

    When entering a cloud environment, biopharmaceutical companies should ask:

    1 How long has the vendor provided cloud services? Cloud computing is still relatively new, and few have used it for more than five years.

    2 How is data security ensured? All data moving to and from the cloud must be encrypted, but additional security features must be in place; for example, virtual machines need to be segregated from other users.

    3 How do they handle redundancy? Virtual machines do fail, but several methods are available beyond physical redundancy, including load balancing, automatic failover, and send/receive monitoring.

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