AWS Architecture Blog

Genomics workflows, Part 5: automated benchmarking

Launching and running genomics workflows can take hours and involves large pools of compute instances that process data at a petabyte scale. Benchmarking helps you evaluate workflow performance and discover faster and cheaper ways of running them.

In practice, performance evaluations happen irregularly because of the associated heavy lifting. In this blog post, we discuss how life-science research teams can automate evaluations.

Business benefits

An automated benchmarking solution provides:

  • more accurate enterprise resource planning by performing historical analytics,
  • lower cost to the business by comparing performance on different resource types, and
  • cost transparency to the business by quantifying periodical chargeback.

We’ve used automated benchmarking to compare processing times on different services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), AWS Batch, AWS ParallelCluster, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), and on-premises HPC clusters. Scientists, financiers, technical leaders, and other stakeholders can build reports and dashboards to compare consumption data by consumer, workflow type, and time period.

Design pattern

Our automated benchmarking solution measures performance on two dimensions:

  • Timing: measures the duration of a workflow launch on a specific dataset
  • Pricing: measures the associated cost

This solution can be extended to other performance metrics such as iterations per second or process/thread distribution across compute nodes.

Our requirements include the following:

  • Consistent measurement of timing based on workflow status (such as preparing, waiting, ready, running, failed, complete)
  • Extensible pricing models based on unit prices (the Amazon EC2 Spot price at a specific period of time compared to Amazon EC2 On-Demand pricing)
  • Scalable, cost-efficient, and flexible data store enabling historical benchmarking and estimations
  • Minimal infrastructure management overhead

We choose a serverless design pattern using AWS Step Functions orchestration, AWS Lambda for our application code, and Amazon DynamoDB to track workflow launch IDs and states (as described in Part 3). We assume that the genomics workflows run on AWS Batch with genomics data on Amazon FSx for Lustre (Part 1). AWS Step Functions allows us to break down processing into smaller steps and avoid monolithic application code. Our evaluation process runs in four steps:

  1. Monitor for completed workflow launches in the DynamoDB stream using an Amazon EventBridge pipe with a Step Functions workflow as target. This event-driven approach is more efficient than periodic polling and avoids custom code for parsing status and cost values in all records of the DynamoDB stream.
  2. Collect a list of all compute resources associated with the workflow launch. Design a Lambda function that queries the AWS Batch API (see Part 1) to describe compute environment parameters like the Amazon EC2 instance IDs and their details, such as processing times, instance family/size, and allocation strategy (for example, Spot Instances, Reserved Instances, On-Demand Instances).
  3. Calculate the cost of all consumed resources. We achieve this with another Lambda function, which calculates the total price based on unit prices from the AWS Price List Query API.
  4. Our state machine updates the total price in the DynamoDB table without the need for additional application code.

Figure 1 visualizes these steps.

Automated benchmarking of genomics workflows

Figure 1. Automated benchmarking of genomics workflows

Implementation considerations

AWS Step Functions orchestrates our benchmarking workflow reliably and makes our application code easy to maintain. Figure 2 summarizes the state machine transitions that we’ll describe.

AWS Step Functions state machine for automated benchmarking

Figure 2. AWS Step Functions state machine for automated benchmarking

Gather consumption details

Configure the DynamoDB stream view type to New image so that the entire item is passed through as it appears after it was changed. We set up an Amazon EventBridge pipe with event filtering and the DynamoDB stream as a source. Our event filter uses multiple matching on records with a status of COMPLETE, but no cost entry in order to avoid an infinite loop. Once our state machine has updated the DynamoDB item with the workflow price, the resulting record in the DynamoDB stream will not pass our event filter.

The syntax of our event filter is as follows:

  "dynamodb": {
    "NewImage": {
      "status": {
        "S": ["COMPLETE"]
      "totalCost": {
        "S": [{
          "exists": false

We use an input transformer to simplify follow-on parsing by removing unnecessary metadata from the event.

The consumed resources included in the stream record are the auto-scaling group ID for AWS Batch and the Amazon FSx for Lustre volume ID. We use the DescribeJobs API (describe_jobs in Boto3) to determine which compute resources were used. If the response is a list of EC2 instances, we then look up consumption information including start and end times using the ListJobs API (list_jobs in Boto3) for each compute node. We use describe_volumes with filters on the identified EC2 instances to obtain the size and type of Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes.

Calculate prices

Another Lambda function obtains the associated unit prices of all consumed resources using the GetProducts request of AWS Price List Query API (get_products in Boto3) and then parsing the pricePerUnit value. For Spot Instances, we use describe_spot_price_history of the EC2 client in Boto3 and specify the time range and instance types for which we want to receive prices.

Calculate the price of workflow launches based on the following factors:

  • Number and size of EC2 instances in auto-scaling node groups
  • Size of EBS volumes and Amazon FSx for Lustre
  • Processing duration

Our Python-based Lambda function calculates the total, rounds it, and delivers the price breakdown in the following format:

total_cost: str, instance_cost: str, volume_cost: str, filesystem_cost: str

Lastly, we put the price breakdown to the DynamoDB table using UpdateItem directly from the Amazon States Language.

Note that AWS credits and enterprise discounts might not be reflected in the responses of the AWS Price List Query API unless applied to the particular AWS account. This is often considered best practice in light of least-privilege considerations.

In the past, we’ve also used AWS Cost Explorer instead of the AWS Price List API. AWS Cost Explorer data is updated at least once every 24 hours. You can denote the pending price status in the DynamoDB table item and use the Wait state to delay the calculation process.

The presented solution can be extended to other compute services such as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS). For Amazon EKS, events are enriched with the cluster ID from the DynamoDB table and the price calculation should also include control plane costs.


Life-science research teams use benchmarking to compare workflow performance and inform their architectural decisions. Such evaluations are effort-intensive and therefore done irregularly.

In this blog post, we showed how life-science research teams can automate benchmarking for their scientific workflows. The insights teams gain from automated benchmarking indicate continuous optimization opportunities, such as by adjusting compute node configuration. The evaluation data is also available on demand for other purposes including chargeback.

Stay tuned for our next post in which we show how to use historical benchmarking data for price estimations of future workflow launches.

Related information

Rostislav Markov

Rostislav Markov

Rostislav Markov is principal architect with AWS Professional Services. As technical leader in Strategic Industries, he works with AWS customers and partners on their cloud transformation programs. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his family outdoors and exploring New York City culture.

Matt Noyce

Matt Noyce

Matt Noyce is a Senior Application Architect, who works primarily with Healthcare and Life Sciences customers in AWS professional services. He works with customers to build, architect, and design solutions that meet their business needs. In his spare time, Matt likes to run, hike, and explore new cities and locations.