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Microsoft Azure accelerates Garvan Institute research

Cloud grant speeds genomic science and facilitates its application

SYDNEY – April 24, 2018 – Microsoft is making a significant investment in Azure high performance computing resources available to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to turbo-charge the development of Garvan’s Genetic Index which holds the promise of great impact on clinical and research genomics worldwide.

Summary data of 5,000 aggregated, harmonised human whole genomes will form the Genetic Index. This tool will be made available to the international scientific community to support genomic discovery. Thanks to the Microsoft Azure grant, Garvan is planning to run the production analysis workflow associated with these 5,000 genomes on the Azure Australia cloud. According to Garvan’s Warren Kaplan, Chief of Informatics, Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics; “The deliverable will be Garvan’s Genetic Index – a resource that will be accessible and available for the world’s genomics community.”

“With Microsoft’s support, Garvan will further accelerate our genome research helping to bring closer a new and important era of healthcare,” said Dr Kaplan.

The Genetic Index is part of an extensive suite of genomics-focused research initiatives at Garvan that seek to impact human health including DreamLab, the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program, the Garvan-Weizmann partnership and the Clinical Immunogenomics Research Consortium Australia (CIRCA).

Microsoft Azure is the only global cloud service in Australia to deliver dedicated High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters that can support genomics, fluid dynamics, climate simulation and other extreme computing requirements. James Kavanagh, Microsoft Azure Engineering Lead for Australia and New Zealand said: “Our approach is unique – delivering clusters of specialised compute and performance networking tailored to the demanding performance requirements of these workloads. We’re not just repackaging and marketing commodity infrastructure as other cloud providers do. We support Windows and Linux based HPC with the fastest direct networking, storage and compute designs – and that clearly shows in the performance.”

Recent academic research published in the US compared the performance of HPC in different cloud environments, concluding: “Microsoft Azure to deliver the best results, and demonstrated that the performance per single computing core on public cloud to be comparable to modern traditional supercomputing systems. Based on our findings we suggest that the concept of high performance computing in the cloud is ready for a widespread adoption and can provide a viable and cost-efficient alternative to capital-intensive on-premises hardware deployments.”

Garvan will leverage the expanding capabilities of Microsoft Azure in Australia, which now extend to four regions with the recent addition of the Australia Azure Central cloud regions, based in Canberra. These are specially designed to offer high performance, secure and resilient computing services for the mission critical applications of Government and national critical infrastructure.

Steven Worrall, Managing Director Microsoft Australia said “We are proud to be able to support the pioneering work that the Garvan Institute performs and make available to it the unique high-performance computing capability of Azure that is tuned for applications such as genomic research and artificial intelligence.”

Garvan plans to perform the complex production bioinformatics work for the 5,000 genomes in its Genetic Index on Azure Australia Central.

“Microsoft has deployed dedicated HPC in Azure ensuring optimal performance for scientific and research applications, which makes it particularly well suited to the pioneering work that the Garvan Institute is conducting,” according to James Kavanagh, Microsoft Azure Engineering Lead for Australia & New Zealand.

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