What biotech service Cytobank did to save $$$ and boost efficiency


Today, we are proud to highlight the success story of one of our biotech customers, Cytobank. Cytobank is a cloud biopharma service that supports research labs around the world. We spoke to Robin Lee Powell, Director of IT Operations at Cytobank who shared how they leverage ElasticBox to save on infrastructure costs and increase team efficiency.

Cytobank helps researchers study life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Scientists around the globe rely on Cytobank to organize, share, and analyze single-cell cytometry data on a massive scale. Visualizing single-cell data involves loads of data transfer and often heavy computations between the client and the backend. On top of that, each customer site is completely isolated and unique from another. Cytobank not only serves customer labs but also provides demo, development and QA environments for their offshore team to test site changes.

All this complexity requires high capacity resources for many uniquely configured site environments. Since the requirements and resource demands of each site vary uniquely, live usage metrics helps determine when to scale resources up or down. To fulfill the unique demands of customer, demo, and QA site environments, Cytobank leverages ElasticBox as an integrated platform.

Self-service catalog to scale efficiently

At Cytobank, a small IT operations team service on-demand environments for multiple internal teams and customer sites. The ElasticBox self-service catalog helps them optimize IT operations efforts at scale. As Robin, shared, “I can just give a set of people role-based access to the sites in ElasticBox without giving direct SSH permission. The ElasticBox web UI is easy to ramp up and add users. Demo and QA users can simply log in and self-serve environments at the click of a button.”

APIs to orchestrate a complex system of DevOps tools

Now each lab environment runs a Tomcat application and web server, an NFS file server, and a MySQL database. To achieve full site isolation, each runs as an AWS Docker container. Typically, operations engineers have to write and manage a ton of scripts manually to customize each environment. But because ElasticBox APIs automatically orchestrate with AWS, Docker, and Puppet, Cytobank can launch complex configurations readily at any time. This automation saves Cytobank months of operations effort and from hiring additional personnel.

Cost-savings on infrastructure

When each isolated site demands resources for heavy payloads, can you imagine how quickly the costs can mount up? Naturally, regulating costs was a huge concern for Cytobank. Thankfully, the ElasticBox APIs respond to a sophisticated decision-making engine to automatically shut down idle resources. If an environment is not in use for 3 hours, it is shut down. Robin added, “I prefer ElasticBox APIs because only they tell me accurately which machine goes up or down, what state they’re in, or how long a machine has been up. This information is critical for us to be able to learn which resources are unused so we can automatically shut them off. The auto shut down of QA environments alone results in a minimum of $10,000 savings monthly. These savings are significant for us. It saves us from consuming about 50 additional machine resources a month.”

Full purview of environments and easy troubleshooting

ElasticBox freed up the operations team from on-call requests at random hours of the night because troubleshooting is easy. “ElasticBox is one place where you can see everything. All the scripts are there to go in and figure out what’s wrong. If something does go wrong, people other than me know where to look and fix because they’re used to serving up environments from ElasticBox. And access control allows us to assign who can see what environments. Role-based access is great to have,” Robin noted.

“Choosing ElasticBox has been one of the best decisions at the right time,” he continued. “We can scale to the needs of our research lab environments and help them find critical clues to life-saving research. We’re proud to be able to serve our customers thanks to the help from ElasticBox.”

Read the full Cytobank case study here or contact us for a custom demo to learn how you can also deploy efficiently and save costs like Cytobank.

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Categories: AWS, Cloud Application Management, DevOps, ElasticBox
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