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May 3, 2016

In modern day computing, virtualization needs no introduction. The ability to create virtual versions of hardware, operating systems, and even storage equipment, has helped businesses optimize return from their computing investments. And now, we have the cloud the familiar virtualization model, extended with on-demand infrastructure, software, and even service delivery. When listing the business benefits of cloud adoption, most businesses (and even analysts) put cost reduction on top of the list.

Based on findings from the TCS Cloud Study, while cost is an important aspect, its not the only differentiator or USP for cloud adoption. CIOs evaluating cloud adoption consider scalability as an important factor before cost reduction. However, in a research intensive industry like Life Sciences, in addition to the regular cost, scalability, and optimization benefits, cloud computing can also facilitate innovation and harmonization of business processes. In this two-part series, Ill explain how.

Research and Development units of Life Sciences companies generate large volumes of data that too at a rapid pace. Hidden inside that data, is a gold mine of insightful information. For example, in a data intensive domain such as bio-informatics, companies must analyze volumes of de-identified anonymous data, which cannot be replicated in physical and/or internal IT environments. For that data to be usable, complexities must be unlocked. This calls for effective collaboration between teams. Further, to stay ahead of the competition, life sciences companies must continuously innovate, be agile, and adopt technology at a rapid pace.

With support from cloud deployment partners, pharma companies can extend their limited physical infrastructure, and setup (with minimal upfront investment and on a pay-per-use model), data clusters that are scalable on demand. Besides fostering innovation and collaboration through easily deployable communication and collaboration tools, the cloud facilitates easy technology deployment, without a steep learning curve, or a large upfront investment, enabling companies to dismantle information silos, while focusing on their core competencies. The growing cloud-first mindset of pharma companies, while reaching out to IT implementation partners, bears evidence of the clouds growing popularity in pharma.

Life sciences companies today are no longer limited by geographies. To be globally competitive, pharma companies must supplement their globalization strategy, with a dose of localization as well. From the IT perspective, the first step towards globalization is to avoid disparate systems, and move to a globally accessible, cloud based IT platform. Besides bringing in economies of scale, this helps streamline and harmonize global operations. It also facilitates geo-specific personalization, and enables companies to drive better patient and customer experience.

Yes, the cloud drives bottom-line business benefits, but is also introduces its own set of unique challenges. For pharma, most challenges revolve around assuring privacy, security, data integrity and compliance. In all this, IT implementation partners too have a responsibility of ensuring seamless cloud services through continuous application availability, adequate security, prompt disaster recovery, efficient application performance, and effective cloud infrastructure qualification, management and control through the right mix of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service (SaaS). Given the clouds ability to scale on demand, pharma innovation need not be limited by internal IT infrastructure anymore. QA units must work with internal and external IT implementation teams, to ensure the right mix and balance of cloud adoption models, with adequate validations and controls. How? Watch this space for my next post. Ill build on an example a real life pharma implementation, list specific testing types and controls, and also a few assurance insights.

Vignesh Karthick is an ex TCSer. He started his career as a Server administrator in a cloud infrastructure environment. 


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