Bio-IT World 2017: Life Sciences Embrace Cloud

Hope you had a chance to attend the 16th annual, three-day Boston Bio-IT World Conference & Expo this year. Competitions included: Best Practices awards announcements and the Benjamin Franklin Award, and the show planners named the 2017 Best of Show winners. Tracks for the conference included: data and storage management, cloud computing, networking hardware, bioinformatics, next-gen sequencing informatics, data security and more.

Face to face
As many times as I’ve walked Bio-IT’s exhibit hall floor, the excitement of seeing in person someone I’ve been interacting with via email and phone – in some cases for years – and hearing their thoughts still pumps me up. True, social media has diminished the impact of conferences, but the floor is crammed with genius – most of it humble and open. Who wouldn’t seize the opportunity to deeply connect with at least a few new great people?

Where’s the hardware?
Five years ago, the Bio-IT floor brimmed with racks of hardware – today they have all but disappeared. Very few compute spaces are untouched by cloud marketing (mania), and life sciences organizations have fully embraced the cloud. It was great to see the Broad Institute has removed the licensing restrictions on GATK. The C-suite has aimed AI/ML/DL tech to recommend products and workflow components – automation will reduce the size of tech- and drug-focused life sciences workforces (e.g., conversing with an AI that codes your stories in the next sprint). Life sciences swallows all the latest trends – clouds, SCaaS, AI/ML/DL – and challenges us to more deeply understand life through living cells – the deeper we know, the deeper we go.

And speaking of SCaaS…
Cray introduced its Supercomputing as a Service (SCaaS) – a new venture and a unique offering, in partnership with Markley.

As datasets grow, the need for SCaaS and the benefits of fast interconnect will grow – you will save money with smart investments for specific workloads. Though datasets are still divided – for example, by funding agencies and grants – growing commercial and private investor financial commitments, as well as open source, should improve sharing. It should be a “perfect storm” for deep learning and SCaaS. A possible “spot instance” for Cray SCaaS would be 1,000-ish cores where the fast interconnect accelerates shared compute. Strong demand for GPUs and like hardware that maximizes throughput also drives life sciences HPC.

Mic toss
Hats off to BioTeam’s successful experiment morphing Chris Dagdigian’s deck into an interactive forum!

Toppings
Beyond cloud migration (yeah, they already know their strategy), what keeps CIOs up at night in 2017? In a word, security. Mitigating human error, for the most part. I/O and storage continue to block the roads of innovation – nothing a bit of cash can’t alleviate (in the short term). AI strategy looms as well, but no rush here. With tech having democratized data and knowledge, joint ventures and collaborations represent a Holy Grail in bio-IT right now. Just how do we form sustainable partnerships? One perspective is complementing each other’s expertise in ways that every partner grows.

I’ll leave you with some questions to ponder
When did we read the last “computational biology is dead” call to arms? The comp bio market remains hot at many levels, but ask yourself:

What role makes the most sense, short- and mid-term?
What contributions will have lasting impact?
What communities fit our skill set and authentic purpose? What leadership style?
What teams will innovate, learn and grow fastest?
What external best practices resonate with our internal methods?
What new tech should we “expertify”?
What relationships build the strongest trust? The best joint ventures?
Are we giving 10x more than we receive?

Looking forward to seeing everyone again at Bio-IT World Boston 2018.

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