Everything is better together, even cloud-based data storage. Recently, Microsoft announced that it would contribute cloud-based storage data and computing power to Terra. Terra is a software project powering industry and academic research, allowing them to collaborate on large-scale health information analysis. Collaboration between industry and academia is crucial to furthering innovative and developing life-saving solutions.

The life sciences company, operating under the umbrella of Google parent company Alphabet, Verily, co-created Terra. Verily has been using it for the past three years, partnering with the Broad Institute, a nonprofit health research institution brought about by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2004. Terra has been running on Google’s cloud infrastructure, but now they will also deploy Terra on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.

Measuring Up to the Competition

Many people are asking why? Why add another cloud infrastructure? Why make a move? And the answer is competition. Google Cloud still struggles to gain traction among its larger cloud competitors, while Microsoft achieves success in enrolling a wide range of Azure partners across various industries.

For example, in 2019, the public cloud services market grew about 37 percent from the previous year, with Microsoft holding 18 percent and Amazon controlling about 45 percent. Google only had about 5 percent of the market. Since Microsoft has more than 168,000 partners in healthcare and life sciences, Terra’s transition to Azure could significantly increase software adoption.

Cloud for Health Care

Microsoft’s continued involvement in the healthcare industry comes with no surprise. Healthcare is an industry where Microsoft can increase its revenue and profit. Microsoft’s decision to contribute to Terra, in tandem with the Broad Institute and Verily, comes less than a year after introducing a Cloud for Health Care bundle.

The bundle includes a customized solution incorporating existing products such as the Azure cloud and Microsoft Teams. The Cloud for Health Care succeeds Microsoft’s announcement in 2017 to focus on healthcare and five other industries, such as manufacturing and retail.

Getting to Know Terra

The mission and vision on Terra’s website state, “We aim to enable the next generation of collaborative biomedical research by building an open platform that connects researchers to each other and to the datasets and tools they need to achieve scientific breakthroughs.”

Terra believes that the value of health data and medical research significantly increases when we remove existing silos from the equation.

The platform was developed on four development principles, which include modular, open, community-driven, and standards-based. These principles indicate that the platform comprises functional components with well-specified interfaces and offers open-source licenses, software, and architecture to enable transparency and extensibility. Additionally, many groups created Terra to foster a diversity of perspectives while remaining consistent with standards developed by coalitions such as GA4GH.

Terra Microsoft - Ecosystem_Graphic

User Benefits and Features

Terra supports researchers in various biomedical disciplines, including cancer genomics, single-cell transcriptomics, medical and population genetics, and infectious diseases. The platform’s unique combination of features empowers institutions to work effectively in the cloud. Below are some of Terra’s most exemplary features.

  • Data Library: Terra gives users access to a federated data ecosystem. It is part of an open ecosystem of data repositories hosted by other partner organizations. The data repositories make it possible to combine data efficiently, economically, and at scale. This model means that users can access data from within Terra, import relevant metadata in the workspace, and launch analyses against the data without storing a single byte yourself. The library also includes the Terra showcase and genomic reference data bundles.
  • Workflows: Users can run reproducible workflows at any scale. Terra is home to a powerful workflow management system that empowers users to take full advantage of the cloud’s elasticity. A built-in Cromwell execution engine supports workflows written in the Workflow Description Language (WDL).
  • Interactive Analysis: Researchers need to inspect, visualize, and apply algorithms to their data interactively. Terras equips researchers with customizable cloud environments that support popular data science and bioinformatics applications. Virtual machines back these environments so users can use them directly “out-of-the-box” or customize them through a user-friendly web form.
  • Workspaces: Users can simplify their analysis in the cloud by storing everything in a workspace. Usually, researchers create a workspace to hold link data in the cloud, keep data organized, boost statistics, visualize and analyze data, run bulk analysis tools, make reproducible results, share analysis results and collaborate.

Leveraging the Cloud for Your Company

Even if you are not an academic institution or a biomedical research organization, cloud-based data storage is for any business that is ready to be competitive in their industry, enhance performance, and increase collaboration. Bauen’s team of cloud-computing experts is well-equipped to support your team during cloud application development, migration, and deployment. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, The Bauen Group uses the Microsoft Azure platform to help you reach your business goals.