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Pharmaceutical industry: Cloud as a booster for digitalization

Switching to Microsoft Azure, a global pharmaceutical corporation modernizes its IT and drives digital transformation forward

March 14 2022Jonas Niessen

The cloud as a driver of innovation

Pharmaceutical companies face major challenges today. They have to more rapidly develop pharmaceuticals all the time, link up their supply chains, and meet compliance regulations. One of our customers testifies to the help that digitalization can provide: For the pharmaceutical specialist with more than 50,000 employees around the world, flexible cloud services will become the preferred mode in order to be able to respond to new digital requirements in the pharmaceutical industry.

Compliance as a major challenge

Two people wearing gown and mask stand in a laboratory

However, before the pharmaceutical company can benefit from all advantages of the cloud, it needs to modernize its outdated IT landscape. It is composed of more than 1,000 applications and more than 6,000 workloads. It is extremely difficult for the IT department to keep track of the overall infrastructure and application architecture. Administration of the heterogeneous IT landscape is also very complex, and therefore time-consuming and expensive.

Another important subject for the company: the many strict compliance requirements in the pharmaceutical industry need to be taken into account in the cloud strategy. This includes, for example, binding regulations from health authorities such as the US Food and Drug Aministration (FDA), guaranteeing protection against falsification, or good working practices in development, manufacturing, quality assurance and sales (Good Practice, GxP).

Starting point for the cloud strategy

The company is planning to modernize its infrastructure with a Microsoft Azure-based cloud journey. This will standardize and automate it. Against this backdrop, we developed a cloud transformation strategy in conjunction with the customer that will make precisely this possible.

What is the best way to achieve the changeover into the cloud? Which applications and workloads can be readily transformed into the cloud? Which need to be adapted or redeveloped? Which ones are no longer relevant and can be turned off? In order to answers these and other questions relating to the migration to Microsoft Azure, we started a proof of concept (PoC) for the pharmaceutical company. The goal: By migrating two applications into the cloud, together with the customer we wanted to investigate what options were available for replicating the two business-critical applications in Azure. Alongside this, the company wanted to build up its own cloud knowledge so that it could later implement a smooth transition into the cloud.

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PoC – the route to cloud excellence

In the course of the proof of concept, it was important to the pharmaceutical company to learn more about the migration, and about operating the cloud solution. Furthermore, as part of the project, we identified the challenges which prevented a smooth transition into the cloud. To get around this, we pursued an alternative migration route during the project.

The most important milestones in the PoC: First of all, we analyzed the IT infrastructure and scanned individual details such as ten Microsoft Windows servers. We then checked whether the applications could be replicated as a Microsoft Azure app service, and the associated databases as Azure SQL. Based on the findings obtained, we carried out the migration of the workloads in conjunction with the customer. Finally, the Windows servers could be replicated as IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), and the existing SQL servers replaced by Azure SQL as PaaS (platform as a service).

Important guideposts on the cloud journey

Looking back, the company is very satisfied with the PoC, our cooperation and the findings it was able to gain during our engagement and from the advice of our cloud architects. To conclude the project, the customer received a list of valuable tips for ways of working and on existing challenges which required analysis and solving.

As part of its cloud transformation, the company is able to, for example, separate out individual computing centers to reduce cost drivers. The increased use of Microsoft PaaS services could also be considered, for data analysis for example, in order to create new opportunities for innovation.

While the pharmaceutical specialist has currently not yet decided on all the details of its cloud strategy, our pilot project has helped to determine the roadmap for a successful, future-proof cloud journey.

About the author
IM-Niessen-Jonas

Jonas Niessen

Director, Cloud Adoption Services, T-Systems International GmbH

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