The Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between non-profit Cancer Council New South Wales (NSW) and the University of Sydney in Australia, is using the Microsoft Azure cloud to accelerate the pace of cancer research and inform health policy to help save lives.
The organisation works to reduce cancer death and illness through prevention, early detection, treatment and care. However, the modelling team used on-premises, legacy infrastructure to run complex models, causing many issues with efficiency and productivity. Teams had to schedule use of the organisation’s 48 virtual machines, sometimes waiting weeks. This infrastructure also required frequent repairs and patches to maintain security.
The Daffodil Centre’s modelling researchers began working with Microsoft partner cubesys to test the cloud’s ability to handle their studies, and successfully created a use case based on a prostate cancer model in Azure Batch and automation delivered by Azure DevOps.
“The whole point of moving to the cloud is to give our teams access to the tools that will accelerate their work and take away the constraints that slow them down,” says Frances Waterford, chief information officer at Cancer Council NSW.
Moving to the cloud has enabled the Daffodil Centre to cut down the running time for each model from a week to half a day, which has increased flexibility and given the organisation more control over its timelines.
“We will be able to run as many of these in parallel as we like, instead of having to queue up one after another,” says Waterford.
This new-found speed will also better equip the organisation to influence health policy. “Having access to the cloud means we can react faster to questions,” says Dr Jie Bin Lew, researcher at Cancer Council NSW. “That has a direct impact on policy development.”
Before migrating to the cloud, modelling teams communicated by email and manually scheduled their runs. Now Azure DevOps Pipelines Automation can initiate an entire sequence.
“By running fully automated models on demand, researchers can reduce their administrative overhead and spend more time on research tasks,” says Silvan Maeder, co-founder of cubesys.
Staff can also securely run models from home, which has proved invaluable during the Covid-19 pandemic, and with a scalable environment in Azure, the Cancer Council and Daffodil Centre only pay for what they use.
“Technology allows us to automate more and scale our efforts so we can put every dollar possible to our mission of supporting patients and finding ways to prevent cancer,” said Waterford.