LIMS 28 Laboratory Informatics & Instr umentation TM Time to Replace your LIMS? lims.scimag.com Ray Stonecipher Replacing a legacy LIMS in Figure 1). These investments have a ber of vendors regarded as early domi- significant impact on the LIMS’ total nators of this marketplace have refo- system is no small matter cost of ownership (TCO) and make it cused their LIMS development to a lim- difficult to project a positive return on ited number of defined industries. Owing to ongoing global consolida- the investment. These trends are clearly recognized tion, stricter regulatory environments through some of the vendor’s marketing and maturity of Laboratory Information s Loss of key personnel messages emphasizing their new focal Management System (LIMS) technolo- Strict development and validation point. More important is the lack of gy, companies are opting to replace procedures adhering to industry stan- ongoing industry-specific enhance- their existing legacy systems with lead- dard methodologies pose an extremely ments to some of the LIMS products ing commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) heavy burden on in-house develop- that may be regarded as driven by LIMS solutions. According to the lat- ment teams. As such, homegrown users from the now “non strategic” est study by the ARC Advisory Group, the demand for LIMS replacements will be at least as large as that for new LIMS systems. Replacing a legacy LIMS system is no small matter. Many companies have years of know-how and historical data stored in their exist- ing system and this information cannot be discarded, it must be migrated to the new implementation. Why replace? s Highly customized implementation In most legacy and first-generation LIMS systems, the technology and the business rules components are com- piled together and can not be separat- ed. Due to the dynamic nature of busi- ness, users have required their ven- dors to customize the program code in order to meet the new business requirements. In parallel to this, the vendor makes modifications to the code in order to incorporate new IT technology. These two independent develop- F i g u r e 1 : Total cost of ownership of a legacy LIMS ments are incompatible with each other, thus preventing the user from upgrad- information systems are aptly recog- industries. As a result, many of these ing to the latest technology while losing nized as no longer cost-effective. A customers face the alternative of further touch with IT trends (blue line in Figure turnover of key personnel instrumental customizing their already highly tailored 1). Separation from the vendor’s direc- in the original establishment of the system, or opting for a COTS LIMS tion makes it more and more difficult to legacy system leaves the company from a vendor with a proven track modify business rules. So, in time, the seriously exposed. Legacy systems record of “future proofing” their system not only loses touch with tech- often lack ample documentation and installed base. nology but with the lab’s own require- “future proofing” mechanisms that will ments as well (red line in Figure 1). This allow the company to continue trusting s Globalization and company episodic pattern is very common with it with its most critical quality data. consolidation legacy and highly customized systems Globalization and reorganization in requiring periodic investments in major s Vendor refocused on other industries all manufacturing industries are driven upgrades (as reflected by the green line As the LIMS market matures, a num- by the need to improve the bottom line LIMS Laboratory Informatics & I n s t r u m e n t a t i o n TM 29 lims.scimag.com F i g u r e 2 : STARLIMS Life Cycle and proximity to markets which have implemented at the disparate sites legacy systems. Its multi-tiered archi- led to consolidation and mergers of posing them with yet another opportu- tecture completely separates the tech- multinational companies such as Exxon nity for cost savings and unification. nology, business rules and database and Mobil, Chevron and Texaco, components from each other. Total.Petrofina and Elf, Glaxo A migration platform The independence of components Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham, One example of a migration plat- in multi-tier systems facilitates a com- to name a few. QA and IT executives form is STARLIMS. From its very plete partition of development and of the newly consolidated operation beginnings in the late ‘80s, it poised maintenance tasks. The vendor can often will find several LIMS systems itself as a platform for conversions of supply new advanced features to the technology tier. These enhanced fea- tures can be quickly validated and dis- tributed throughout the enterprise without compromising the business rules or database components. This assures that the application reflects a high level of technological adoption (blue line in Figure 3). Similarly, users can modify the business rules compo- nent to meet the needs of a dynamic work environment without parting from the vendor’s general development leading to a proficient match to the business needs (red line in Figure 3). Dollar wise at this stage, the TCO (green line in Figure 3) declines to the level of ongoing maintenance costs. The migration process 1. Developing the “To Be” implementation based on current business rules The new LIMS implementation should not be hampered by legacy business rules as these could be migrated and enhanced within the F i g u r e 3 : Total cost of ownership of a commercial-off-the-shelf LIMS new implementation. 30 LIMS Laboratory Informatics & I n s t r u m e n t a t i o n TM 2. Implementing the new system and the data in the legacy system. This tions designed throughout its history. lims.scimag.com business rules involves the creation of a migration test The STARLIMS platform’s comprehen- The new implementation should be plan and running vigorous testing once sive configuration tools allowed com- applied and tested prior to the migra- the migration has taken place. plete migration of 25 years of legacy tion of legacy data. In the case of 6. Legacy data publication. database programming into a modern STARLIMS, this means that the imple- Following successful data conversion COTS within 117 days. mentation has passed both factory and and parallel running of the new system, site acceptance testing. the project team gains a real-world view Summary 3. Mapping legacy “As Is” data of the data sources and workflow effi- LIMS users expect flexible systems model to the new implementation ciency. This allows refinment of previ- to support their business needs, with In this phase, the existing data is mapped ous decisions and facilitates a final prompt implementation times and a to the new LIMS data model. For those decision about which of the legacy data reduced TCO throughout the lifecycle. fields that are not directly mapped to the is to remain as “read only” and which Increasing the functionality of solutions new data model, legacy fields are added data should be published for continued can make the purchase decision easier. to the new implementation modification. For example, the ability to apply either 4. Performing data migration customer-developed structures or the Once mapping is complete, an auto- Migration in practice platform’s own structures for managing mated routine is used to import the The Pacific Environmental Science both static and dynamic data allows legacy data into the new system. The Centre (PESC) is Environment rapid adoption of the latest technology legacy data can be provided through a Canada’s premier science center in without conciliation of best practices variety of means including; csv files, Western Canada and provides the core already available in legacy systems. database backups or SQL dumps. laboratory and field operations required 5. Testing and validation of the for the department’s regional programs. Ray Stonecipher is Executive migration The PESC had been using a main- Director of Professional Services at Testing is performed to validate that the frame-based LIMS initially developed in STARLIMS Corp. He may be data stored in the new system matches the 1970s encompassing 105 applica- contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.