Pfizer, Inc. applies science and global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. The company strives to set the standard for quality, safety, and value in the discovery, development, and manufacturing of medicines for people and animals.
Pfizer’s high performance computing (HPC) software and systems for worldwide research and development (WRD) support large-scale data analysis, research projects, clinical analytics, and modeling. Pfizer’s HPC services are used across the spectrum of WRD efforts, from the deep biological understanding of disease, to the design of safe, efficacious therapeutic agents.
Dr. Michael Miller, Head of HPC for R&D at Pfizer explains why Pfizer initially considered using Amazon Web Services (AWS) to handle its peak computing needs: “The Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) was a unique option that offered an additional level of security and an ability to integrate with other aspects of our infrastructure.”
Pfizer has now set up an instance of the Amazon VPC to provide a secure environment with which to carry out computations for WRD. They say, “We accomplished this by customizing the ‘job scheduler’ in our HPC environment to recognize VPC workload, and start and stop instances as needed to address the workflow. Research can be unpredictable, especially as the on-going science raises new questions.” The VPC has enabled Pfizer to respond to these challenges by providing the means to compute beyond the capacity of the dedicated HPC systems, which provides answers in a timely manner.
Pfizer’s solution was written in C and is based on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) command line tools. They say, “We are currently migrating this solution over to a commercial API that will enable additional provisioning and usage tracking capabilities.”
The primary cost savings has been in cost avoidance, “Pfizer did not have to invest in additional hardware and software, which is only used during peak loads; that savings allowed for investments in other WRD activities.”
For Pfizer, AWS is a fit-for-purpose solution. The Dr. Miller explains, “It is not a replacement for, but rather an addition to our capabilities for HPC WRD activities, providing a unique augmentation to our computing capabilities.
Overall, “AWS enables Pfizer’s WRD to explore specific difficult or deep scientific questions in a timely, scalable manner and helps Pfizer make better decisions more quickly.”
Looking ahead, Pfizer is interested in exploring Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for storing reference data to expand the type of computational problems they can address.