Many researchers already know how useful DevOps is in the life sciences. 

Relying on specialty or proprietary applications and technologies to power their work, biotech and pharmaceutical companies have benefited from DevOps practices that enable continuous development meant micro-service-based system architectures. This has dramatically expanded the scope and capabilities of these focused applications and platforms, enabling faster, more accurate research and development processes.

But most of these applications and technologies rely on critical infrastructure that is often difficult to deploy when needed. Manually provisioning and configuring IT infrastructure to meet every new technological demand can become a productivity bottleneck for research organizations, while the cost surges in response to increased demand.

As a result, these teams are looking toward Platform DevOps—a model for applying DevOps processes and best practices to infrastructure—to address infrastructural obstacles by enabling researchers to access IT resources in a more efficient and scalable way.

Introducing Platform DevOps: Infrastructure-as-Code

One of the most useful ways to manage IT resources towards Platform DevOps is implementing infrastructure-as-code solutions in the organization. This approach uses DevOps software engineering practices to enable continuous, scalable delivery of compute resources for researchers.

These capabilities are essential, as life science research increasingly relies on complex hybrid cloud systems. IT teams need to manage larger and more granular workloads through their infrastructure and distribute resources more efficiently than ever before.

7 Benefits to Adopting Infrastructure-as-Code

The ability to create and deploy infrastructure with the same agile processes that DevOps teams use to build software has powerful implications for life science research. It enables transformative change to the way biotech and pharmaceutical companies drive value in seven specific ways:

  1. Improved Change Control

Deploying an improved change management pipeline using infrastructure-as-code makes it easy to scale and change software configurations whenever needed. Instead of ripping and replacing hardware tools, all it takes to revert to a previous infrastructural configuration is the appropriate file. This vastly reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to catalog, maintain, and manage infrastructure versioning.

  1. Workload Drift Detection

Over time, work environments become unique. Their idiosyncrasies make them difficult to reproduce automatically. This is called workload drift, and it can cause deployment issues, security vulnerabilities, and regulatory risks. Infrastructure-as-code solves the problem of workload drift using a mathematical principle called idempotence – the fundamental property of repeatability.

  1. Better Separation of Duties

It’s a mistake to think separation of duties is incompatible with the DevOps approach. In fact, DevOps helps IT teams offer greater quality, security, and auditability through separation of duties than traditional approaches. The same is true for infrastructure, where separation of duties helps address errors and mitigate the risk of non-compliance.

  1. Optimized Review and Approval Processes

The ability to audit employees’ work is crucial. Regulators need to be able to review the infrastructure used to arrive at scientific conclusions and see how that infrastructure is deployed. Infrastructure-as-code enables stakeholders and regulators to see eye-to-eye on infrastructure.

  1. Faster, More Efficient Server and Application Builds

Before cloud technology became commonplace, deploying a new server could take hours, days or even longer depending upon the organization. Now, it takes mere minutes. However, configuring new servers to reflect the state of existing assets and scaling them to meet demand manually is challenging and expensive. Infrastructure-as-code automates this process, allowing users to instantly deploy or terminate server instances.

  1. Guaranteed Compliance

Since the state of your IT infrastructure is defined in code, it is easily readable and reproducible. This means that the process of establishing compliant workflows for new servers and application builds is automatic. There is no need to verify a carbon copy of a fully compliant server because it was directly built with compliant architecture.

  1. Tougher Security

Shifting to infrastructure-as-code allows life science researchers to embed best-in-class security directly into new servers from the very beginning. There is no period where unsecured servers are available on the network waiting for cybersecurity personnel to secure them. The entire process is saved to the configuration file, making it infinitely repeatable.

Earn Buy-In for Platform DevOps From Your IT Team

Implementing infrastructure-as-code can be a difficult sell for IT team members, who may resist the concept. Finding common ground between IT professionals and researchers is key to enabling the optimal deployment of DevOps best practices for research compute environments.

Clear-cut data and a well-organized implementation plan can help you make the case successfully. Contact RCH Solutions to find out how we helped a top-ten global pharmaceutical company implement the Platform DevOps model into its research compute environment.

Phil Eschallier

With more than 25 years of experience as a managerial and technical computing professional, Phil currently leads RCH’s Managed Services capabilities and is responsible for all elements of the customer experience.