Aegis Sciences uses Pure Storage to pivot its business model in testing times

Profile picture for user Mark Samuels By Mark Samuels May 17, 2021 Audio mode
Summary:
When the scale of the coronavirus pandemic became clear last year, Aegis Sciences decided to make a move into COVID testing – and its scalable technology platform has helped the company meet huge demand for its services.

Image of COVID-19 virus and the world

Aegis Sciences is using Pure Storage’s subscription model to scale its infrastructure quickly and effectively in response to fast-changing COVID testing requirements.

The company’s biopharma lab became a center for processing thousands of COVID-19 tests during 2020. As the demand for testing continued to increase, so did the pressure on Aegis’ backend storage systems.

CIO Tim Ryan says the rapid reactions of his team helped to support a pivot in Aegis’ business model. While the pandemic has presented an extreme range of challenges, Ryan suggests that being able to react to fast-changing business circumstances is now very much the new normal for all successful digital leaders and their IT teams:

From a CIO perspective, I think it's really important to be a business partner versus an order taker. We need to be aligned with the business and anticipate where it’s going and how we stay aware of emerging technologies and risks. Our team works with the business on a regular basis. And it's been a huge benefit. The partnerships that we have with the business are helping the company grow and be successful.

That ability to pivot quickly was critical when the pandemic presented new challenges last year. In mid-March 2020, Aegis decided to move into the COVID-testing business and a team of scientists within the company worked on the methodologies that would allow for this process to take place.

By mid-April, the company boasted testing capacity of 3,500 samples per day. When this service proved to be successful, the company upped capacity at its Nashville center to reach 7,000 samples per day by the end of May, and 15,000 by the end of July. However, demand for testing continued to rise and increased significantly last summer. Aegis then had some important business decisions to make, says Ryan:

The supply just couldn't meet the demand. We decided as an organization that we were not going to take on new business, because we wanted to keep our turnaround time to two days; that was our goal from a patient-care perspective. But we also had to continue to grow.

Assistance came in August last year, when Aegis created a partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services, which enabled the business to receive $6.6 million in government funding to increase testing capacity to 60,000 samples per day. Aegis directed some of this new funding to an investment in its IT infrastructure.

Ramp up

As case numbers climbed, Aegis needed to ramp up testing. The company took advantage of the Pure Evergreen Storage subscription model, upgrading its environment to X50 FlashArray. By using Evergreen, Ryan said Aegis could upgrade storage on-demand and scale its infrastructure to meet fast-growing testing requirements:

That gave us the confidence that we could continue to grow our capacity. So as we hit the 60,000 commitment at the beginning of October, we were then able to quickly ramp to 70,000 by the middle of October.

Aegis had already worked with Pure for a couple of years. Back in 2019, its existing Dell EMC platform was reaching end-of-life. Aegis needed to decide if it was going to move in a different direction. Aegis assessed multiple vendors, including Dell EMC, and Pure came to Ryan’s attention as part of that process:

What impressed me initially was the Net Promoter Score – in my opinion, what was being advertised was better than world class. I did research with the CIO professional network that I belong to. And I received unsolicited positive accolades from the people that had switched to Pure.

That positive feedback led Ryan and his team to assess Pure from a technology perspective. They came to the conclusion that the storage specialist would be the best technology partner to help support the company’s future growth plans:

And that's turned out to be true. Pure Evergreen, which was another key differentiator, we've been able to utilize that – and it's worked as advertised. So we're very satisfied with the decision we made and Pure has really became our foundation.

While the implementation is paying dividends, there were some tricky technical challenges that had to be overcome. Aegis had to address a pre-existing storage infrastructure that was supporting its Oracle environment, which houses the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) that now processes Aegis’s COVID tests. When Aegis moved to Pure in 2019, Ryan and his team were unable to use Pure for its LIMS system as doing so would have broken the terms of the Oracle contract.

Crucially, Ryan and his team re-negotiated its Oracle licensing to an application-specific model. They then transitioned to use Pure as the company’s storage backend – a transition that Ryan said has saved the business millions of dollars because, as testing requirements have grown, they haven’t had to pay the associated Oracle licensing fees.

Ryan says another key success factor for using Pure’s on-demand platform is that his organization doesn’t have to worry about the fixed cost of buying IT from a long-term perspective. That’s crucial during a fast-moving pandemic, when the requirement for testing can scale upwards and downwards in a short period of time:

And that's really been a huge enabler for us, and it's been seamless. So now our whole environment is on Pure and it’s made it a lot easier to manage. And from a cost perspective, it's going to reduce our costs long-term.

The US Government was so impressed with Aegis’ ability to scale and grow that the company received an additional grant to move to 110,000 tests per day in February. What’s more, Aegis recently received additional funding to push onto 130,000 samples per day, which will help the company develop pool testing and allow schools in the US that still have COVID concerns to potentially open up in September:

That’ll actually help reduce the overall COVID costs from a national perspective, as you’re combining samples together, so you can test multiple samples simultaneously – if they’re all negative, then everybody in that pool is considered negative.