Breeding and Testing Software as a Service
The SaaS revolution
Breeders, testers, researchers: Is it possible to get the best of your technical data for a fixed budget, in rental mode?
Yes, and more, with an information system enabling to use processes validated by your community of researchers.
The SaaS revolution gives access to all-inclusive "Software as a Service". Also named SaaS, it is replacing investment on IT servers, buying software and spend a lot of time and money in specific software adaptation. Instead of installing the software on servers, user's PC or mobile, it consists in using the same features via an application running on a distant server.
Beyond the technological innovation, SaaS focuses on the Service delivered to the users since it includes a ready-to-use configuration designed for a specific activity. Unlike the classical "On Premise" information systems that were highly customizable and needed an audit and configuration services to be functional, the SaaS edition is already configured with all the methods and tools for some activity, and the users can start after a short training.
Table of contents
- I a - Benefits of server and services mutualization
- I b - How widespread is the SaaS model in the IT world ?
- II a - Doriane's range of breeding and testing SaaS
- II b - Affordable for small research activities, and financially attractive for bigger R&D organizations
- II c - Fast start, easy scalability: SaaS is the best choice for start-ups and growing R&D departments
I - What's SaaS, Software as a Service, exactly?
The distribution model of SaaS relies on the cloud technology, based on storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of on your server's hard drive. The SaaS is a way to deliver applications without hardware installation and provide an up-and-running function without any technical matter requiring computer skills.
Technically, we can notice three major differences from traditional computing:
- Virtualized: IT resources are shared and allocated dynamically. Hardware and installation costs are mutualized, and the system can adapt its capacities to load variations.
- All-inclusive services: Hardware and software continuously up-to-date with guaranteed availability, initial training & help resources included.
- Self-service and pay-per-use distribution: The cost depends on time of use, capacity allocated or number of user accounts, and does not imply investment in advance.
But the SaaS is also a new way to meet the needs of an industrial activity. Instead of adapting a standard software to the needs of every customer, the software editor focuses on a series of activities and proposes a unique solution that fits the requirements of all users from various companies working on the same activity.
"SaaS vendor is expected to continuously build in the best practices into their solution according to the industry standards [...] An enterprise with fairly complex customization requirements for its HR processes may prefer an on-premise SAP ERP HCM solution[...]" extract from Arunabha Roy's post on the SAP's blog ¹
I a - Benefits of server and services mutualization
Information system infrastructure (servers) on the one hand, and configuration from audit to maintenance (services) on the other hand, both represent technical locks slowing down the implementation and evolution of an IT system. These two pillars of an IT system project require expert know-how and material resources. An alternative to handling these questions internally consists in mutualizing direct costs and expertise knowledge thanks to specialized suppliers:
- IT infrastructures, namely software, hardware, network and security expertise, can be mutualized by externalizing the computing in the cloud. Cloud providers mutualize the costs of servers and IT services among their clients, including a high level of expertise in their advice and support.
- Instead of re-creating a specific configuration for every new project, the software configuration and its evolutions can be mutualized for a community of users working on the same processes thanks to RnDExp® SaaS Corn for instance.* The common configuration of SaaS enables to adapt delicately the tool to the users' needs at affordable cost since configuration expenses are mutualized among all researchers of all organizations using this Software as a Service.
Provided that you find the right partner for these critical changes, mutualizing server and service in a SaaS model reduces implementation and maintenance costs. Moreover, customers appreciate the peace of mind brought by a billing subscription based on a flat fee.
I b - How widespread is the SaaS model in the IT world ?
More and more software is available in SaaS version, this new model generated $ 43.4 billions in 2017, with a year-over-year growth rate of 22.9 percent. (IDC)
“Traditional enterprise software vendors like Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and IBM still have a huge base of on-premise software customers and they are all now pushing to aggressively convert those customers to a SaaS-based consumption model. At the same time, born-in-the-cloud software vendors like Workday, Zendesk and ServiceNow continue to light a fire under the market and help to propel enterprise spending on SaaS.” says John Dinsdale, chief analyst and Research Director at Synergy Research Group. ²
How about Plant Research departments information systems? In the R&D sector, some innovations get adopted fast (drones, RFID, Big Data), when others take far more time to be adopted, mainly for security reasons and cost of change. Cloud technologies such as Software as a Service are part of the latter, even if the SaaS can even lower the risks of security breach and loss of data, along with great gains in terms of research efficiency, cost shortages and financial advantages.
II - Benefits of the SaaS model for Research Information Systems
Research departments of seed companies, technical institutes, cooperatives and food industries use custom IT systems to carry their studies on huge amounts of heterogeneous and sensible data. In most R&D departments, an IT team handles the research software and database running on internal servers, in a client-server architecture. But more and more cloud applications are used by researchers: SaaS office tools (Office 365® and Google® Docs), APIs, even Public Cloud Computing is sometimes used in Genomics to launch complex calculations on DNA for instance.**
“Life scientists and their institutions no longer have to find millions of dollars to establish their own supercomputing center." declares Wu Feng, Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. He led the project of creating an easier, cost-effective access to DNA sequencing tools and resources for the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. “The model enables the easy sharing of public data sets and helps to facilitate large-scale collaborative research.” ⁴
II a - Doriane's range of breeding and testing SaaS
Software as a Service offers a multitude of possibilities, and the French software editor Doriane, specialized in agronomical and genetical applications for more than 30 years, proposes various models of installation of RnDExperience® Plant Research software:
- The typical client-server architecture: all information is hosted in a server, researchers are using a client PC that queries the server in real time. This architecture is the most popular amongst research institutes, it is a proven technology, fully customizable and scalable.
More information on RnDExp® SaaS Tomato.
- RnDExp® SaaS is available in five editions for breeding and testing Corn, Wheat, Tomato, Rice or Cotton. It comes with a standard configuration that fits all major needs of breeders, cannot be customized, does not require any installation nor maintenance from the customer, is accessible from anywhere (with a minimal connection speed). Mainly for a few breeders or a small team wanting a quick economical start, and ready to adapt some of their methods. ***
- RnDExp® Ready hosted on a virtual private SaaS server comes with the same standard configuration as SaaS, it can be customized to specific needs of a research department, and is the best choice for small teams of plant researchers wanting a quick economical start, and ready to adapt some of their methods. ****
- RnDExp® Custom hosted on a virtual private SaaS server requires an audit of the research department methods and comes with a 100% specific configuration. The only option for plant research activities not available in SaaS or Ready edition, and the best plan for medium to large research departments looking for an IT system moulded to their current processes.
Up to now, few pioneers have decided to move their research IT system in the cloud, mostly small departments and isolated breeders. What have they gained in dematerializing their breeding software?
II b - Affordable for small research activities, and financially attractive for bigger R&D organizations
Small research departments seldom have the resource to afford installing a breeding software. On a long-term basis, the cost of the software will be similar, but the "On Premise" requires nearly three times more cash to start with, whereas the SaaS edition will be paid regularly, on a rental mode.
Cloud-based installation does not require any hardware nor license investment, as a result adopting a SaaS information system enables great reduction in asset investment
II c - Fast start, easy scalability: SaaS is the best choice for start-ups and growing R&D departments
One of the characteristics of Software as a Service consists in having the same configuration for all users, which means the system is ready to use. For instance, RnDExp® SaaS Corn, includes standardized tools and traits.
With an "on premise" software, the consulting team in charge of implementing the new system leads an audit of the research department and elaborates a specific configuration that fits the methods and tools of the researchers. RnDExp® SaaS Corn already integrates a standard toolbox that complies with most Corn breeding task automatization and data treatment.
In term of services as well, the SaaS model enables a fast start: Since all customers share the same configuration, there is no need to audit the research activities. There is no need to train an internal IT administrator since all the administration of the server and user rights is done by the provider. Even training becomes easier since all users on the same configuration follow the same initial training cession, and a "Training Center" proposes videos, tutorials and an unlimited written support.
Conclusion: Keep calm, it's a Cloud
Yes, it's a big change and such a transition deserves preparation, partners, and a long-term vision to choose the right platform that will fit the needs of the research department for years. It's an investment for more flexibility in the future:
"In summary, any SaaS implementation project would have an integration phase where multiple skilled resources working over a period of time may be a requirement. Thus every organization should estimate the budget and efforts required for SaaS integration, before choosing a specific SaaS solution." Arunabha Roy in the SAP blog³
Still, more and more research departments dematerialize their IT system in the cloud, mainly to free themselves from server legacies (hardware, software, configuration, evolution maintenance) and also to focus on their main activity: Plant research. The IT team is less occupied by purely technical issues and more available to make the configuration evolve along the needs of researchers, and the managers reckon they have less stress on their shoulders as soon as they have found the right partner to host their system:
- Less IT worries: No maintenance ; No updates, No performance issue. The server is optimized for the use of the software ; No out-of-date servers.
- Easier and more secure remote access to the system from outsite the site.
- Less expensive & No budget surprise: the rental price is clear.
Mutualization is common in the wild, here is an example of intelligent cloud formed by migrating starlings.
Award-winning image taken at the right moment by Daniel Biber.
"The reason that fish form schools, birds form flocks, and bees form swarms is that they are smarter together than they would be apart. They don't take a vote; they don't take a poll: they form a system. They are all interactive and make a decision together in real time." Louis B. Rosenberg, an American inventor, entrepreneur and writer, paving the way for Artificial Intelligence and collaborative decision-making
*Research software configuration requires a strong know-how on the research processes and a solid expertise in the software architecture and administration platform. Such a joint expertise is hard to find and most projects include a step to develop this expertise first and foremost. In RnDExp® projects, this expertise can be developed in two different ways: Either by training a member of the research team to RnDExp® administration, or by an audit of research activities by Doriane's consultants. Both methods involve pretty much service costs that can be mutualized by a SaaS configuration.
**Research departments conduct experiments on a vast number of objects. They need to communicate closely with the other members of their team, with other activities of the research department and with their management (Transversality). In this matter, the needs of research departments are growing in terms of volumes of data, security, information sharing among the various locations of research stations and with external partners. It becomes more and more complex to meet these needs internally. Externalizing data and software in servers in the cloud is feasible thanks to the power of data exchanges through the internet network, and the maturity of the technology, now proposing solutions with a very high level of security, notably used by banks, government agencies and administrations of major companies.
***For instance Doriane's RnDExp® SaaS Corn includes a whole set of tools for Maize breeders to handle all the processes of their activity, unlike the "on-premise" RnDExp® Custom. The latter can be adapted to any crop, any activity of a Plant Research department such as tomato testing, forage breeding, Product development etc... An audit and configuration services are needed in the project to build the tools needed. On the contrary, RnDExp® SaaS Corn is already configured with a Corn-specific configuration (inc. 70 diseases and pests, 70 morphological traits, 40 analytical traits, covariables, UPOV standard etc...) and all the tools breeders need for Corn biotech, crossing, line nursery, hybridization, field trial, seed inventory, experiment planning, field monitoring, analysis and reporting. More information here.
**** On demand, Doriane can study such installation of RnDExp® Ready or RnDExp® Custom on a cloud server virtually privatized for one customer only. This hybrid configuration has the financial advantages of the cloud model, while enabling custom configuration that fits exactly the methods of the researchers. This configuration requires some administration that can be done by an internal IT or by Doriane team. Depending on the number of users, and complexity of customization, this option may not be feasible, feel free to contact our team to know what model best matches your project.