Using vSAN to Power Advancements in Biotechnology

April 07, 2021

Biotechnology, or Biotech for short, drives incredible levels of innovation across all facets of our lives.  One of the more obvious examples of this innovation is through the development of vaccines and antibiotics.  But its presence is spread across a diverse set of use cases, including agricultural, industrial, and environmental problem-solving.

The common denominator across these examples is that powerful applications and technology are used to solve these very difficult challenges.  Biotech companies typically use specialized applications that help the processing, post-processing, and analysis of massive data sets and complex computational workflows.  For example, molecular docking software like rDock is used for virtual screening: A technique used in drug effectiveness and discovery efforts.  This type of data may also be subject to important data security requirements: a non-trivial task for many organizations.  Solving the problems of Biotech requires sophisticated software and powerful hardware.  VMware has been the platform provider for many in Biotech, including Bharat Biotech, and Almac Group, but advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) introduce all-new levels of problem-solving.

While these types of applications may be unique in their focus, they share characteristics with other solutions that demand a high amount of resources.  These traits may include:

  • Application architectures using multiple instances of the application (traditional or cloud-native) to scale as needed.
  • High levels of resource utilization (CPU, memory, disk, and network) through multithreaded processes.
  • AI/ML-driven by CPU or GPU offloading.
  • The potential of large amounts of storage for structured and unstructured data.
  • Resides on a platform that can scale the backing hardware resources accordingly.

With a high demand for resources, these applications may not always be the best fit for the cloud.  One may occasionally see these resource-intensive applications deployed on-premises, directly on servers.  The rationale is that it allows these specialized applications to take advantage of dedicated hardware while minimizing the impact on other applications in a shared infrastructure.

Harnessing a Modern Platform

Dedicated hardware placed in the corner of the data center can address short-term needs, but this ad hoc approach introduces an asterisk to the operations, management, and security compliance of an environment.  

  • How can application and data availability be ensured?  
  • How can the environment be scaled effectively?  
  • How are the applications and the data they produce are protected?  
  • How are the solutions and data secured?  
  • How can hardware contention be identified and accommodated?  

For traditional applications of all types, virtualization has answered these questions for many years.  But vSphere and the family of products it belongs to as a part of VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) is more than just a hypervisor.  It is part of a platform that can run the most demanding of workloads using the very latest hardware.  It can power next-generation, cloud-native applications using the software you already know.  

Recent enhancements demonstrate VMware's focus toward platform flexibility and performance, such as running containerized cloud native applications using Kubernetes through VMware Tanzu or the scalability improvements found in vSphere 7 U2.  Support of vSAN over RDMA found in vSAN 7 U2 gives all-new levels of network performance and efficiency, and the introduction of HCI Mesh compute clusters delivers increased flexibility for vSAN and traditional vSphere clusters.  And let's not forget VMware's partnership with NVIDIA for computational offloading AI/ML processes to the GPU through the NVIDIA AI Enterprise Suite.  It all adds up to a platform that is ready for big data.

Examples and Guidance for Powering Biotech workloads with vSAN

Traditional storage architectures have served the needs of common use-cases well, but as development of specialized applications and use-cases grows, it can be difficult for these traditional architectures to accommodate the discrete requirements of a variety of use-cases all at the same time.

Through modular scale up and scale out capabilities, cluster isolation, storage/compute disaggregation and storage policy based management, the architecture of vSAN allows for designs to be based on the needs of the business and the applications that drive the organization.  

For specific examples and practical guidance on running Biotech workloads with vSAN, see vSAN Powering Biotech which elaborates on this topic.

Summary

A variety of technologies across Biotech are helping to address challenges that were considered unfathomable not long ago.  VMware continues to adapt a platform to deliver flexibility and performance to the most demanding of applications.  Biotech companies are producers and consumers of big data, and VMware is ready for it.

@vmpete

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Pete Koehler

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Pete is a Staff Technical Marketing Architect at VMware. With a primary focus on vSAN, Pete covers topics such as design and sizing, operations, performance, troubleshooting and integration with other products and platforms.