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How GlaxoSmithKline is Accelerating Science with Docker Enterprise


GlaxoSmithKline is a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in the United Kingdom. Their company mission is “to help people do more, feel better, and live longer”. One way they are doing that is by using data science to find new drug formulations that can improve lives. At DockerCon Europe, Ranjith Raghunath, the director of Big Data Solutions and Lindsay Edwards, the head of Respiratory Data Sciences at GlaxoSmithKline presented an explanation of how Docker Enterprise Edition (Docker EE) is helping them accelerate drug discovery through a project called Edge Node On Demand.

Letting Science Drive Technology at GlaxoSmithKline

Leveraging Data Science for Improved Outcomes

The biggest challenge in pharmaceutical research is that hundreds of drug formulations need to be created to take one successfully to market, because only 3% of formulated molecules actually become medicine. Lindsay Edwards heads a Data Science group that is focused on respiratory illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma. His group uses big data analytics to mine research data and previous patient trial data to arrive at results more rapidly.

However, data science is a new and emerging field. There are new software tools and open source data analytics solutions coming to market all the time, and different hardware and chipsets designed specifically for this type of computing. With each new emerging technology, it can take 3 to 6 months to get these new tools approved for use in a highly-regulated organization such as GlaxoSmithKline.

Lindsay needed a faster way for his team to safely test and experiment these new technologies across different hardware platforms, while also allowing his scientists to easily share their research amongst each other. His organization needed an agile platform that could support different software tools, applications, and hardware configurations, and still be able to scale these tools up as needed.

Rapid Prototyping with Edge Node On Demand

To meet the needs of the data science group, Ranjith needed a way to quickly deliver new technology stacks to various researchers, independent of the underlying infrastructure. He explored various options and selected Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) because it is the most effective platform for delivering secure but isolated environments for researchers to use.

These environments come preconfigured with necessary enterprise integrations such as authentication through Active Directory, but researchers can also install and work with their preferred software components. Using Docker EE allows for complete infrastructure independence and true app portability, enabling Lindsay’s team to move from one cluster to another while keeping everything they have intact.

The new solution, named Edge Node On Demand [ENOD], is powered by Docker EE and integrates with various Cloudera clusters and MongoDB. The solution provides GlaxoSmithKline these key benefits:

  1. Single interface - Standardizing on Docker EE means all the different apps can be treated in a single consistent manner. Further, Ranjith’s team leverages the Docker APIs to consolidate environment information to a single interface for both service requests and tracking application deployments.

  2. User isolation - Each researcher has a sandbox for experimentation that is isolated from others, so they can break their own experiments without affecting others.

  3. Reusability - If a researcher does make a discovery, using Docker EE makes it easy to rebuild and redeploy the same application again and again.

  4. Seamless migration - Whether it is moving from a dev environment to production or from one hardware configuration to another, Edge Node on Demand is truly portable across environments for seamless migration.

  5. Sharing - Docker EE makes it possible for GlaxoSmithKline to share research and data easily, improving collaboration and accelerating results.

GlaxoSmithKline’s work with data sciences earned them the “Rookie of the Year” award at the recent Hadoop Strata conference, and their innovative delivery model using Docker EE, allows them to accelerate their research and hopefully discover more life-saving drugs.

This post was originally published on October 30, 2017 on the Docker blog.

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