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Case Study

Biobank Sweden IT

A safe host for container development environment

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Biobank Sweden IT needed a managed services partner capable of meeting stringent requirements on information security, while also providing updates and expertise on the Kubernetes ecosystem. Biobank Sweden has the mission to support a national biobanking infrastructure, for the purpose of preserving medical samples. The Swedish biobank infrastructure includes all public healthcare providers and medical universities, together with businesses and patient organizations. The software team Biobank Sweden IT manages nationwide biobank application development as well as maintenance and support of the custom applications used by Biobank Sweden.

Challenge

When the organization got started, in late 2020, there was a legacy of in-house developed applications previously hosted and maintained by another service provider. The objective for the new tech organisation is to provide a long-term solution for Sweden’s biobanks, addressing their common digitalisation challenges.

“The main objective with creating Biobank Sweden and transferring development and administration to us was to build an organisation which could work closer to operations,” says Peter Hedman, Head of Biobank Sweden IT.

Legislation with implications for tech

At the same time, Sweden’s biobanks were facing major change. In 2023, a new biobank law was implemented, with the main intent of guarding the privacy of individuals who provide medical samples. Another purpose of the legislation was to enable and control the use of samples for research.

The biobank law had a significant impact on the legacy applications and called for new development efforts. As an example, the right for individuals to alter their consent to biobanking may now be exercised using 1177, a popular end user app for interacting with Swedish healthcare providers. Additionally, Biobank Sweden IT is assigned to drive further digitalization of biobank administration, including applications, which were previously paper based.

As Biobank Sweden IT got started, their team faced urgent needs to update legacy applications, both it terms of functionality and the base technologies. To build a robust, future-proof foundation, applying agile development methodology and container technology using Kubernetes as the overall platform was the obvious way forward.

For such specialized applications, there is nothing even resembling a turnkey software offering available on the market. Most functions require bespoke solutions which makes inhouse development central to Biobank Sweden IT. However, the same does not apply to IT operations.

“We have chosen not to engage in operations on our own. Development is our focus and that is what we are really good at. We strive to be a lean organisation dedicated to supporting biobanks and working closely with them to build applications,” says Peter Hedman.

 

Complex requirements

To find a new managed services partner, a procurement was conducted. Key criteria for the selection addressed service providers’ capabilities to support the container environment and Kubernetes. The fact that Biobank Sweden has many stakeholders, each with their own set of requirements, also had significant impact on the procurement. Several tenders were dismissed as it was hard to satisfy all the needs from Sweden’s 21 regional healthcare administrations.

The Swedish biobanks have moderate uptime requirements. This contrasts with many other systems serving healthcare providers, where 24/7 availability is the norm.

“Our most critical requirements involve security, specifically when it comes to the information stored. We are hosting large amounts of personal data and must ensure that this is managed in a highly secure way. Doing this by the book is an extensive undertaking,” says Peter Hedman.

We have chosen not to engage in operations on our own. Development is our focus and that is what we are really good at.
Peter Hedman, Head of Biobank Sweden IT

Taking advice to stay informed

Other key considerations in the procurement involved collaboration, including the division of tasks between the managed services partner and the development team. In addition to having the proper credentials for hosting, operations and meeting the distinctive requirements, Biobank Sweden IT wanted a partner who can also take an advisory role and help find new solutions.

“We are happy to take advice and avoid spending a lot of time to stay informed and evaluating that part of the development chain. These issues may involve introducing new tools for the container environment which help make the job easier for our developers,” says Peter Hedman.

Kubernetes is largely based on Open Source components, and there is a plethora of tools and products available for developers in this environment. News appear frequently and it is vital to stay updated on trends and events.

Biobank Sweden IT settled for a fully managed infrastructure service, Proact Managed Container Platform, delivered by Proact and backed up by consultants from Conoa, a Proact company. As the name suggests, this service provides a container platform for hosting both the production and development environments, using Kubernetes.

“We have positive experiences from getting started with Proact and Conoa. There was a tight schedule for the migration, but it all went smoothly thanks to excellent collaborative efforts,” says Peter Hedman.

 

Cloud Native and Kubernetes professionals

Proact and Conoa have multiple certifications for Kubernetes from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF):

  • Platform provider: Certified Kubernetes Administrator – Hosted
  • Service Provider: Kubernetes Certified Service Provider
  • Training partner: Kubernetes Training Partner
  • Security Specialist: Kubernetes Security Specialist Certification
  • Developer: Certified Kubernetes Application Developer

Proact Managed Services are ISO 27001 certified.

Benefits

  • Full-featured platform
    Supports both the production and development environments.
  • Security and compliance
    ISO 27001 certified with hosting at data centres in Sweden.
  • Scalable delivery
    Dedicated environment to flexibly meet performance and scalability needs.
  • Expertise
    Tracking of the Kubernetes ecosystem and advice on the development environment.

Solution

  • Proact Managed Container Platform. A Kubernetes based Container Platform-as-a-service that Biobank Sweden IT uses for test and development as well as full production.
There was a tight schedule for the migration, but it all went smoothly thanks to excellent collaborative efforts with Proact and Conoa.
Peter Hedman, Head of Biobank Sweden IT.

About Biobank Sweden IT

Biobank Sweden IT is the technology arm of Biobank Sweden tasked with national IT development, operations and tech support for nationwide biobank enterprise applications. Biobank Sweden is a partnership of healthcare, academia, businesses, and patient organizations dedicated to facilitating medical research and excellence in diagnostics and treatment. It is supported by local and regional government, the Swedish Research Council and the national innovation agency Vinnova.
www.biobanksverige.se

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