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Amazon AWS Case Study on TraceLink

July 6, 2013

The following case study was written and published by Amazon Web Services.


TraceLink uses AWS to help thousands of drug manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and pharmacies share information across the global pharmaceutical supply chain and enable drug traceability from ingredient to patient. The TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud, which runs on AWS, connects people, processes and information faster and less expensively than traditional approaches.

Massachusetts-based TraceLink Inc. protects patients, enables health, grows profits and ensures compliance across the global Life Science supply network through its many-to-many business collaboration platform, the TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud. The company was launched in 2009 to help companies in the pharmaceutical industry connect, share information and collaborate on end-to-end production and supply-chain activities. Life Science companies and their partners rely on the TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud to help them fight drug counterfeiting and diversion, safeguard product quality and ensure compliance with global track and trace regulations. TraceLink’s clients include 4 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies.

The Business Challenge

TraceLink was founded with a simple mission: Protect patients from counterfeit drugs while ensuring cost-effective access to safe, quality medicines globally. Since drug counterfeiting and other threats to product integrity pose a danger to public health, compliance laws incorporating global track and trace regulations have been established. But it takes considerable resources and coordination to manufacture and track drugs across a global network with hundreds of thousands of suppliers, manufacturers and dispensers. According to TraceLink, the pharmaceutical industry produces billions of products each year, generating billions of transactions and terabytes of data annually. To help solve this problem, TraceLink wanted to develop an application platform that offers simple connectivity, complete end-to-end visibility and rich business collaboration for all network participants.

Enabling this globally connected, highly collaborative network required TraceLink to create a reliable, secure, and elastic platform that could handle significant spikes in traffic. First, TraceLink needed to ensure that customer data would be tightly secured yet easily accessible from anywhere in the world. Second, the infrastructure had to be flexible enough to quickly deploy new applications while accommodating new transaction types and connectivity between disparate systems. Third, TraceLink required agility to serve diverse users across a broad range of organizations, from large multi-national pharmaceutical companies to fast-growing supply partners and small community pharmacies. And finally, TraceLink needed a cost-effective way of enabling unlimited users, data storage and transactions for its customers while minimizing cost and maximizing control over its computing, deployment, and development environments. The reliability, scalability, and low cost of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud matched these requirements.

Why Amazon Web Services

TraceLink designed the TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud to leverage the cloud computing resources provided by AWS. “We’re taking full advantage of the elastic nature of AWS by enabling increased capacity in fine-grained service layers and adding application instances and storage capacity as demand grows,” says Peter Spellman, TraceLink Senior Vice President of Product and Cloud Engineering. “We can add incremental application instances and storage capacity in minutes, minimizing cost, and maximizing responsiveness.”

TraceLink customers require visibility into all parts of the supply chain, real-time data access and multi-functional, multi-partner collaboration. The company has implemented a fully distributed data layer using the AWS Cloud that provides consistency for business transactions. A key component of the TraceLink platform is a capability developed for managing distributed, concurrent updates to business objects without introducing single points of failure or potential performance bottlenecks. This allows TraceLink to use the elastic nature of AWS while ensuring data consistency for mission-critical operations, even at massive scale.

TraceLink is using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) as the underpinnings of its infrastructure. A client may acquire, store and transmit from less than 25 GB to more than 25 TB of data each year with supply chain partners as each pharmaceutical product is manufactured, packaged, serialized and distributed across the supply chain. This data, which includes production and packaging data as well as distribution and supply chain traceability data, is stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

The TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) to provide persistent instance storage and backup. Elastic Load Balancing is used to deliver dynamic application capacity and availability. Amazon ElastiCache provides distributed caching for TraceLink applications. Amazon CloudSearch supports full-text user search and other data functions, while Amazon CloudFormation provides contextual service provisioning. Completing the AWS service infrastructure foundation for the TraceLink Life Sciences Cloud are Amazon DynamoDB, EIP (Elastic IP Addresses) and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).

The Business Benefits

TraceLink has been able to leverage the cost efficiencies and pay-as-you-go utility model of AWS to offer an innovative commercial model for its customers. "Using AWS Cloud lets us align our fee structure to the value created for our customers,” said Shabbir Dahod, TraceLink President and CEO. “Companies only have to pay for what they use and can turn on new business modules and enable new connections in minutes, eliminating the traditional large up-front capital outlay for enterprise software and supporting hardware infrastructure. For our customers, this can mean tens of millions of dollars in cost savings. For the patient, it can mean the difference between getting the medicine they need or not.”

AWS also provides efficiencies and cost benefits to TraceLink’s internal business operations. TraceLink has been able to build a global cloud management platform that automates cloud operations and eliminates the need to spend resources maintaining an extensive physical global IT infrastructure. This saves both time and cost. "Using AWS enables us to save hundreds of hours a year in IT staff time, a benefit that will keep growing as we expand,” Spellman added. Freed from infrastructure management, the TraceLink Operations team can instead focus on the core business, improving customer service and identifying new application opportunities by analyzing customer usage, transaction histories and network operational patterns.

To read more case studies and learn more about how Amazon's AWS can help you build your business, visit the AWS Start-Up details page.

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