Cloud engineering in genetics – “Built for flexibility”
Apr 16, 2021

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The image of “technology in a cloud” makes an average person think of AI and robots; one imagines the heart centre or brain of a sophisticated system without which everything would stop working. Cloud engineer Eemi Haukkala laughs a little about the AI image: “In fact, the systems we are creating are built for simplicity and flexibility, not to be fancy and complex.”

Cloud engineering boils down to the coding and maintenance of software infrastructure. It means developing and maintaining all the different services related to the genetic data. Safely and appropriately—essentials in the field of genetics testing, where personal data are as sensitive as it can get.  “Cloud engineering is more about the containers themselves and their communication, not necessarily about what happens inside of them,” Eemi says.

Ideally, cloud engineering consists of straightforward automation. “Tests need to be automated to be best prepared for change; that’s why any infrastructure must be robust and testable. One also needs to carefully mitigate risks and assess alternatives to propose the best solution,” Eemi notes.

“It’s important to code solutions which best address the specific needs of the business. Any infrastructure needs to be also maintainable: the code should be written in a way that is easy to adjust without requiring manual interference or excessive time to update.” (This is where the AI image arises to the laymen.)

Eemi reveals that important skills for a cloud engineer are being able to communicate and discuss, to take critique, and to work as part of a team, “all the time.” He has prior experiences from years of software development projects in the healthcare and financial services sector as a consultant. Now, as part of Blueprint Genetics Technology group, he appreciates his stable team around him and the consultants that empower the team. “We have the exciting and challenging task of working with cloud technologies and managing massive amounts of genetic data.”

As a cloud engineer, Eemi needs to overlook and understand everything, and be a versatile generalist: “I touch and fix a lot of things.” At the same time, everything is intertwined and complex, especially at the intersection of genetics and tech: there is the domain with the biological data, the technological processes, and the legal requirements for data processing and storage.

It helps that Eemi is fascinated by the field of genetics, curious about natural sciences since an early age, and intrigued by each cell of the human body and by the way information is processed. “There is a lot going on inside a cell.” The same is certainly true for a cloud, AI or not.

It sounds like a cliché to him too, but he insists software infrastructure must be understandable to humans rather than to computers.

“You don’t want unnecessary extras or overengineering.” Instead of considering a billion possibilities or losing resources and time to anticipate every potential happening, you have to make and keep the overall data infrastructure working: “You just must prepare a system to respond to change.”

For a quickly growing company like Blueprint Genetics, smart cloud engineering enables scalability when more resources are needed, automatically, without bumps or error messages, because of simple, efficient configurations. Simple doesn’t always means less qualitative – quite the opposite. Robust, testable, and maintainable is what cloud engineering is about. Join in?

Blueprint Genetics is a genetic testing company based in Helsinki and Seattle. Our global team of more than 200 exceptional people works across the organization to provide world-class genetic testing to healthcare professionals, so they can provide the best possible care for patients and families with inherited diseases. Whether we work in software development, customer service, the laboratory, or the geneticist team, we are committed to the individual ones. Join us and make a difference:

Text: Nina Laurinkari
Photo: Anton Sucksdorff

Last modified: April 16, 2021