Cloud computing has evolved from cutting edge technology only adopted by the most technically savvy organizations to being a component of even the most conservative portfolios. The cloud has made it possible for even the smallest organizations to have virtually limitless access to sophisticated, highly robust technology solutions. However, in spite of its popularity, many people don’t realize the cloud’s potential extends far beyond shaving a few thousand from technology budgets and bolstering the next social networking start-up. In fact, cloud computing is proving it can be an important tool for extending or even saving human life.
Cycle Computing created 51,132-core supercomputer on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud to test 21 million synthetic compounds that could be useful in treating cancer. The cluster ran for 3 hours on March 30 and cost $4,828.85. A comparable build out using a traditional infrastructure approach would have cost over $20 million and taken months to deploy. The same research could have taken a year to complete if the simulation was run on the 1,500-core cluster Cycle Computing’s client, Schrödinger, typically uses for biotechnology and pharmaceutical research.
What Cycle Computing accomplished was significant. However, any organization with adequate technical expertise, could create a cluster of equal and processing power using the cloud as infrastructure. This completely changes the dynamics of medical research. Researchers no longer have to endure the longs waits to rent time from supercomputing centers or obtain billions in funding, which is substantially speeding innovation in the industry.
The work being done by Cycle Computing and Schrödinger is just one example of how cloud computing and healthcare are intersecting to create new opportunities. Cloud computing is also providing the computing power and data storage necessary to fuel advances in DNA sequencing. This has allowed the field of genomics to advance even faster than Moore’s law, which is commonly used to describe the pace of computing technology advances. It required over a decade and several billion dollars to map the first genome; cloud computing now makes it possible to map a genome in a few days at a cost of only thousands of dollars. That’s a reduction of time and cost by a factor of one million. By enabling this level of genomics, cloud computing isn’t only advancing human knowledge, it is making the possibility of personalized medicine based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup practical.
Cloud computing may soon impact healthcare in a much more personal way than supporting research. It is now possible to store the sum of all human medical knowledge in the cloud. Access to this volume of data and the processing power of the cloud has the potential to make treatment a much more analytical endeavor.