Amazon V/s Google : The race for Cloud Genomics


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It’s midway into 2015 and by now several past estimates that begin with “By 2015” must be realized or halfway into realization. One such estimate is the rise of cloud computing. By 2015 many had predicted that Enterprise adoption of cloud computing would double from what it was in 2012. Cloud computing would create more than 14 million new jobs worldwide, industry value would peak close to trillions of dollars and so on. Nearly all of these and much more has happened with the cloud and now companies are looking at innovative ways to integrate cloud into anything and everything that is connected to the internet.

And when we say companies, the first two names that rhyme perfectly with cloud are Amazon and Google. These internet giants have been the pioneers of many an innovation that has pushed cloud computing out of traditional restraints and made it a household name in IT. The latest sector that seems to be pulling the interests of Google, Amazon as well as other top cloud service providers is Genomics or the science of DNA research. Off late Amazon and Google have been seen to be engaged in a hectic battle to upload as much human genome information onto the cloud as possible.

The universal theme of such cloud-centric genome informatics services is marketed as one that is making the world’s genomic information more useful. Here is how Google explains its Google Genomics service in a one liner – “Google Genomics helps the life science community organize the world’s genomic information and makes it accessible and useful”. However, the real reason for this bio-cloud battle is that analysts estimate the market value of such cloud genomic services to be over $1 billion per year by 2018 and thus you can imagine the opportunity window it opens up for a service provider who establishes a monopoly in this sector.

Of course, you might be having a fair share of doubts as to why this sector has such a high value proposition in future. Let us look into what exactly an ecosystem these companies are creating with human genome information on the cloud.

Healthcare is evolving into a personalized service delivery worldwide and today everyone from drug manufacturers to medical researchers are focusing on linking treatment to a patient’s DNA profile. Genetic responses to medications often help in planning dosages, constituents, and more importantly shorten curing time. However unraveling the mysteries of human DNA involve surfing through gazillions of information blocks and billions of analytical events. Structuring and mining this huge data poses yet another challenge. If medicos were to do this process on their own servers and technology infrastructure, then this area of research would be limited to only a handful of organizations that have deep pockets as the costs involved would be astronomical.

This is exactly the sector where Google Genomics and Amazon Web Services are fast invading into. They basically help to store such humongous data sets on their robust cloud stacks and allow high end analysis of the data. Their subscription-based models of cloud services allows companies to plug in their own hardware, access the right DNA information from the cloud and carry out their own experiments, all at will with costs under control. Costs linger around $4 to $5 a month for Amazon to store one full human genome with Google following a similar cost model. Processing power and tools add further to the bill but when compared with a real time in-house genome informatics system, this model costs less than one tenth of the projected cost.

Google and Amazon have exhibited tremendous strides in terms of intelligent data mining as exemplified by facts such as Google being the most dominant search engine on the planet and Amazon being the number one e-commerce company in the world. Both have flourished in their core businesses thanks to their capabilities in business intelligence, data archiving and retrieval in real time, scalable infrastructure, and ultimately their innovative mindsets.

Pharmaceutical and medical research activities and projects that today rely on such services from Google and Amazon are the foundation stones for tomorrow’s high end clinical applications. And whom do you think companies would then rely on for the infrastructure then? The same companies of course! The valuations of $1 billion a year in revenue is too tiny a figure when we look at what lies ahead in the roadmap for advanced clinical therapies using genomic information. Google points out that it took almost 15 years and $3 billion in research for the Genome Project to kick start the first genome sequencing, and today it all costs less than $1000 and a single day to store and sequence a human genome.

The race for supremacy in the cloud genome market is at present a two-fold one with Amazon and Google consuming the lion’s share, but till the time either companies are able to eat up any growing threats in the form of new age start-ups in this sector, the race is open but tight for others to join. Expect major breakthroughs in healthcare tech from Google and Amazon in their upcoming annual developer conferences and summits. Even though the companies are exerting a dual monopoly, they are always open to fostering innovations from other communities with the ultimate aim of consuming the innovation for their own good.

Author : Rahul Suresh Date : 09 Jul 2015