On-demand storage system

New LIMS from Sciformatix uses Software as a Service paradigm to simplify system, cut costs

Lloyd Dunlap
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LOS GATOS, Calif.—In a development that promises small-to-medium size labs the opportunity to implement their own custom laboratory information system in a timely and cost-effective way, Sciformatix Corp. has announced the release of SciLIMS Samples and Storage Management.

Industry consultant Paul Armel notes that the system uses similar technology to that which allows Google to provide spreadsheet and other applications without the user investing in software or servers. SciLIMS operates via the Internet under the software-as-a service (SaaS) concept, eliminating the need for complicated installation, downloading, and user training.

"The major advance is conceptual," Armel says. "It's not a new technology, but it's not widely applied."

"As many as 80 percent of all labs don't have the financial or IT resources to implement a traditional LIMS," says Tom Kent, Sciformatix president and CEO, "nor can they afford the time, which can stretch from weeks to months and even years." His company was founded in 2007 by owners who had previous, frustrating experience with LIMS and were intent on building a new way to handle lab activity.

The company's first module based on the SaaS model will meet a key need—managing the inventory of samples and their specific storage locations, such as freezers, refrigerators and cabinets.

"The customer can set up their own storage configuration," Kent notes, "download and install and get meaningful results immediately."  He adds that the system includes a "very comprehensive search tool" that can utilize virtually any criteria. As one example he provides, a search can specify "DNA, Native American, female, older than 50" and the sample location will be specified.

The SaaS model provides use of a service to customers on demand, which eliminates the cost of equipping a device with every application. It also reduces traditional software maintenance, ongoing operation patches and patch support complexity in an organization. On-demand licensing enables software to become a variable expense, rather than a fixed cost at the time of purchase. It also enables licensing only the amount of software needed versus traditional licenses per device. SaaS also enables the buyer to share licenses across their organization and between organizations to reduce costs.

Over time, SaaS centralized control can provide companies like Sciformatix with an ongoing revenue stream from multiple labs without pre-loading software in each device at every customer location. The company will host the application on its own Web server, download the application to the customer device and disable it after use or after the on demand contract expires.

A subscription to SciLIMS will cost as little as $50/mn, but a more typical example, according to Tom Kent, would be a $100/mn fee per user for a lab with up to five users. Kent thinks larger labs may also come on board because of reduced IT responsibilities and superior growth management. The company has adopted a two-pronged sales approach that initially will combine direct sales and partnership with E&K Scientific, a California-based distributor of lab supplies and equipment. A roll-out to other areas of the U.S. and the world will build on initial business results, assuming they are positive.

Lloyd Dunlap

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