Google (GOOG) and Accenture have inked a partnership to help life sciences organization data more secure, useful, and accessible. A multi-year deal, the agreement opens up Google cloud and artificial intelligence capabilities in combination with Accenture’s life science services and platforms—backed by considerable subject matter domain expertise—to help organizations capitalize on cloud and purpose-built offerings for discovery and development. Known as INTIENT platform, the firms declare end-to-end capabilities across the drug development value chain now available from discovery and research to clinical development and the actual delivery of treatments.
Transition to the Cloud
The transition from traditional technology infrastructure to cloud is now underway in life sciences, a traditionally more conservative industry when it comes to purchasing advanced technologies. Especially in the realm of regulated systems (e.g. GxP)—from laboratory and clinical trial data capture to regulatory document management and commercial data. Traditionally, life science buyers must validate applications, which meant they didn’t switch to new technology stacks often. With rapidly growing cloud players, such as Veeva Systems, the industry has warmed up to the cloud and now invests to accelerate the move to more pragmatic, efficient and scalable utility models of information technology consumption.
Cloud Pecking Order
Amazon AWS is the king of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing (e.g. cloud computing infrastructure) in life sciences—especially in areas such as discovery and the support of large data lakes. However, Microsoft Azure is making tremendous progress under their new CEO; and, in fact, when factoring Officer 365 and other productivity tools such as SharePoint and Teams—now all in Azure moving forward—most big pharma is now heavily invested in Azure. Microsoft can never be counted out especially with this brilliant CEO. Across enterprises and government, Azure and Aws are in a gargantuan battle for mindshare, business capture, and the ultimate currency of the AI economy—data lock in.
Google’s cloud IaaS cannot be counted out either. The amount of experience, expertise and ongoing learning in Mountain View, CA, cannot be ignored. They are active on multiple fronts in life sciences with Verily.
According to the Gartner Magic Quadrant last year for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service providers, there are only three in the leadership, top right, position of the quadrant—number one is AWS, followed by Microsoft Azure and then Google. IBM and Oracle are far behind and will never catch up with these Big 3.
Validation et al
Be mindful that if systems must be validated then the application vendor will need a comprehensive package of documentation—essentially evidence that all that appears to be is as it seems. Big pharma especially is notoriously conservative and will send considerably to drill into applications to understand how well they are designed, developed, and tested. With Accenture on top of the Google cloud, they will infuse their expertise into this process, which can benefit the Google cloud. On the other hand, Accenture is known for pricey offerings and the growing life science demands include significant economical breaks based on utility consumption volume. Regardless if Accenture can turnkey offerings so as to price them competitively, the competition for this incredibly important and lucrative computing space will become fiercer. Accenture holds precious assets, such as the old Octagon group, which involves business process outsourcing for regulatory submissions for example. This can all be delivered now in the Google cloud.
What’s Right for You?
Well, that depends. We find that many companies that have sizeable Microsoft technology investment profiles will consume substantial Azure services. On the other hand, many conservative big pharma that were Oracle/IBM-heavy environments appear to be embracing AWS more fully—for example, running NoSQL big data applications in AWS environments for AI-driven insight. Established “e-Clinical” ventures, such as Veeva and Medidata (now Dassault Systems), leverage AWS for back-end cloud-scale computing, virtual decentralized clinical trial platforms, such as Science37 taking advantage of AWS for some elements of their solution as well; while large CRO Parexel recently announced their Azure-backend platform. On the mobile platform front, Google and its Android OS has a powerful footprint as an innovative ecosystem emerges for mobility and digitization.
Ultimately, the winners will come down to who delivers superior, business-driven, purpose-built, functional rich applications that make users more productive. Microsoft has the most maturity in its technology product vendor channel ecosystem—they have tremendous experience working with partner channels. But Amazon/AWS has invested heavily in industry teams to catch up on the business practice front—Google has traditionally been more “techie” driven but they too have industry teams in place.
The Accenture and Google announcement makes this tripartite battle all the more interesting—and competitive.