Move over Google, Microsoft to provide cloud and AI tech to biomedicine's Terra

Microsoft
Microsoft scores a customer win by collaborating with two other entities to provision the Terra software project's biomedical research with its AI and cloud compute capabilities. (Microsoft)

Microsoft announced on Monday that it's chipping in its cloud-based AI, storage and compute power to an open source health and life science project. Terra is a secure, scalable, open-source platform for biomedical researchers to access data, run analysis tools and collaborate with each other.

Alphabet's Verily, which was founded in 2015 as a life sciences and healthcare company, was one of the co-founders of the Terra project.

In addition to Verily, the other co-founder of Terra was Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is a nonprofit health and research institution that was launched in 2004.

Verily, Broad Institute, and Microsoft announced a strategic partnership to accelerate new innovations in biomedicine through the Terra platform. While Terra has previously ran just on Google's cloud platform, it will now be deployed on both Microsoft Azure and Google's clouds. 

While it's a big customer win for Microsoft, the new partnership is somewhat of a black eye for Google Cloud as it works to close the public cloud gap on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

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Last year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) continued its reign as the public cloud leader with around 33% market share, according to Synergy Research Group (SRG). Microsoft was second with a market share of 18% followed by Google (9%), Alibaba (5%), IBM (5%), Salesforce (3%), Tencent (2%), Oracle (2%), NTT (1%,) and SAP (1%), according to SRG.

Biomedical data are being generated and digitized at a historic rate and are expected to reach dozens of exabytes by 2025 — including data from genomics, medical imaging, biometric signals and electronic health records. Along with  research and analysis tools, these datasets could provide lifesaving insights into some of the world’s most pressing health issues.

Researchers that want to use those datasets have been hamstrung by large, siloed data estates, disparate tools, fragmented systems and data standards, and various governance and security policies.

The new partnership's goal is to break through those barriers by bringing together Microsoft’s cloud, data and AI technologies, as well as a global network of health and life sciences partners to accelerate development of global biomedical research through the Terra platform.

The partnership between the three will build on the open-source foundation of Terra. The new collaboration was designed to advance the ability of data scientists, biomedical researchers and clinicians around the world to collaborate in tackling some of the more complex and widespread diseases facing society today.

Microsoft has relationships with more than 168,000 health and life sciences organizations, which could lead to wider adoption of Terra's software.

“The opportunity to partner with the Broad Institute and Verily in helping researchers around the world understand and treat our toughest human diseases is an honor,” said Gregory Moore, M.D., Ph.D., corporate vice president of Microsoft Health Next in a statement. “Through this partnership, we will apply the power of Microsoft Azure and its enterprise-grade capabilities in security and privacy, along with cutting-edge data and AI solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Machine Learning and Azure Cognitive Services, to deliver on the vision of the Terra platform at a new level of scale.”