R&D Applications – Is It Time to Think Cloud First?

Martin Waller


Digital R&D

If you’ve heard the term ‘Cloud First’ being talked about a lot recently, it’ll be because the UK government has been making a big noise about it for the last couple of years now. ‘Cloud First’ is an official UK government policy that was launched in 2013 with the stated aim of being a quicker, cheaper and more competitive way for government departments to deploy technology.

Today, cloud is soaring in popularity so quickly – and not just in government, but in all sectors – that it makes you wonder whether the same cloud-by-default thinking is also going to become pervasive in the R&D sector.

The answer is yes it will, or at least it should. But not for the cost and efficiency reasons described by the Cabinet Office.

The real motivation for R&D and science organizations to move their applications to the cloud should not be to save money. It is to take advantage of huge opportunities to increase scalability, flexibility and hence develop new products and move into new markets more quickly. Cloud can also be excellent for facilitating collaboration projects and also for enabling start up projects to get access to high power computing facilities very rapidly.

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Overall, the special nature of R&D and the data it deals with makes the argument very compelling. As this Accenture report on the life sciences sector put it recently, “R&D requirements for large data sets and associated computing capacity—as well as collaboration across entities—makes R&D a prime candidate for cloud applications.”

The report highlights pharma, bioinformatics, next-generation gene sequencing and molecular imaging and modeling as areas that all could benefit from cloud computing’s scalable, cost-effective and high-performance computing environment.

With all this in mind, we believe that R&D and science organizations are rapidly going to get to the stage where they’re not thinking of whether to move to the cloud, but when. Indeed, one of the most common questions we now get asked by customers is which applications they should move to the cloud and which they shouldn’t (largely, because of security concerns).

The answer, really, is that there are very few that definitely can’t or shouldn’t be moved.

This, admittedly, may be a surprise to some reading this, because we know for a fact that there are many organizations out there are still currently restricting their R&D cloud deployments to pilot projects. This is mainly due to perceived problems with security, regulatory restrictions and the desire to protect their intellectual property.

The fact is, security is quite rightly an issue that has to be considered carefully, but there are ways to move even the most sensitive data to the cloud and keep it protected. It’s happened in UK government, where there are now clear security guidelines in place, and it can happen in R&D. For example, as this Cloud Pro article points out, “hybrid cloud solutions can be deployed to provide the required information for research while maintaining personal, confidential information on a separate system.”

In short, there is always a way. You just need to take the time and effort to find it. We believe it’s going to be well worth putting in that time and effort, because the benefits of increased flexibility and convenience for R&D are going to become too big – and maybe even game-changing – to ignore.
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