Desktop and Application Streaming

Genomics England improves its researcher experience with Amazon WorkSpaces

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in the United Kingdom, Genomics England is at the forefront of human genome research. The company began as a vessel to execute the UK Government’s bold plan to sequence 100,000 whole genomes and incorporate genomic medicine into routine care through the NHS, a feat they achieved in 2018 after just 5 years. Genomics England is now working with NHS England and the NHS Genomic Medicine Service to develop a personalized and predictive healthcare solution through the use of genomics. They are also partnering with key life sciences players and academic researchers to enhance scientific breakthroughs and patient benefits.

With a growing variety of consented data sets and increasing adoption of customers with advanced analytical use cases, Genomics England wanted to improve the user experience for researchers on their platform.

Genomics England currently provides researchers from academic institutions and commercial organizations access to a continuously expanding data set and portfolio of applications required for complex analytics. Given the sensitive nature of genomic data, scalability and performance requirements, data-residency constraints, and available machine learning services like Amazon SageMaker, the company chose to run their core service on AWS. Originally, researchers using the company’s services gained access to applications and data through an on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution managed by Genomics England.


While the company’s on-premises VDI solution provided researchers access to the data and tools needed to do their jobs, ongoing management of the solution was resource intensive and often prevented the Genomics England IT team from working on other projects. For example, without auto-scaling and guaranteed resource availability, resource-intensive workloads running for a given user often negatively impacted other users sharing the same resource pool, requiring the Genomics England IT team to manually reallocate resources where needed. The only way to mitigate this situation was to over-provision resources, which was expensive and inefficient. The company needed to focus limited IT staff on improving service offerings and user experience, rather than managing infrastructure.


Genomics looked to the AWS End User Computing team to provide a fully managed solution to address challenges with its on-premises VDI solution. After careful review of the company’s unique needs, Amazon WorkSpaces was selected as the ideal solution. Not only did WorkSpaces allow the UK-based company to comply with data-residency requirements, it helped optimize end-user experience for researchers leveraging Genomics applications already running at AWS. WorkSpaces Cost Optimizer was implemented to monitor the solution, generating recommendations for cost-optimizing the environment.

Given the sensitive nature of genomic sequencing data, security was also an important factor. Moving to a managed service ensured that Genomics England benefited from AWS’s shared responsibility model and offloaded ownership of underlying VDI security administration to AWS.


Working in collaboration with the AWS End User Computing team, Genomics England planned and executed a phased migration to WorkSpaces. The first phase of the migration involved assembling a group of 50 users to participate in a WorkSpaces beta program. During the beta program, the migration and data transfer process was tested and refined. User feedback was shared with the AWS team to help optimize the solution and create login instructions for a larger scale migration to WorkSpaces.

User feedback collected during beta testing showed WorkSpaces was easy to use and delivered great performance. In fact, users who participated in the beta program were quite vocal about not wanting to go back to the old VDI solution.

– Sarah Egan, IT Manager, Genomics England

After a successful beta, Genomics England migrated 4 groups of 250 users each to WorkSpaces. The company deprecated its on-premises VDI solution one month after migrating its entire user base to WorkSpaces.


As a fully managed service available with features like auto-scaling and GPU-accelerated instances, WorkSpaces allows Genomics to improve on-demand resource availability and reduce expenses, while improving computational performance, end-user streaming experience, and utilization of limited IT resources.

After migrating to WorkSpaces, we no longer need to manually adjust infrastructure allocation when someone wants to run a resource-intensive workload. Having a fully managed solution allows us to focus our small IT team on developing new services and improving our applications.

– Graham Binns, Head of IT Strategy and Architecture, Genomics England

Today, Genomics England leverages WorkSpaces to provide approximately 1,500 researchers with access to its data and applications. In the fullness of time, the company expects provide an additional 5,000 researchers access to tools needed to help diagnose and search for cures for rare diseases using genomic data.

Alan Patterson Alan Patterson serves as Sr Product Marketing Manager for AWS End User Computing (EUC) services. As the marketing lead for AWS EUC, Alan is responsible for messaging and content development, awareness generation, and go-to-market support.