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Celebrating a year of progress — and a sneak peek at what’s coming next

Kyle Vernest is Head of Product in the Data Sciences Platform at the Broad Institute. In this guest blog post, Kyle takes a look back at how Terra has grown over the past year, and gives us a preview of what to expect in the first quarter of 2023. 


It’s been an incredible year for Terra, with a lot of new users coming to the platform as more labs, groups, and organizations move their computational work to the cloud. We’re also thrilled to see user growth being fueled by scientific consortia such as the Human Cell Atlas, and NIH-driven programs such as AnVIL, rallying their communities around Terra as a platform for secure data sharing and collaboration. 

The Terra development teams spanning the Broad Institute, Microsoft, and Verily have worked tirelessly to continue to expand the platform’s capabilities in service of these growing communities. Highlights of the year’s releases include an improved user interface for managing cloud environments for interactive analysis, increased scalability of the workflow management system, and better tooling for uploading and organizing data in workspaces. We also rolled out numerous useability improvements, like email notifications for workflow status and better organization of the list of workspaces. Most recently, we launched the public preview of the Terra Data Repository, a new component of the Terra platform designed to provide data storage and access management capabilities tailored for the life sciences.  

Yet all these upgrades are in many ways only the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes, an enormous amount of work has gone into laying the groundwork for a major development that will come to fruition in the first quarter of 2023: support for storing data and running analyses on Microsoft Azure. 


Coming soon to a cloud near you

We have been working closely with our partners at Microsoft to expand Terra to a multi-cloud offering, and we are nearing the launch of Terra on Azure coming early in the new year. Leading up to the launch, you may notice a new “Sign in with Microsoft” option on the Terra welcome screen (which will take you to a “Coming Soon” page until the preview phase starts). 

But don’t worry if you’re planning to stick with Terra on Google; we have plenty of upgrades in store for you as well! In particular, you can look forward to taking advantage of WDL 1.1’s workflow language updates, and switching from Jupyter Notebook to JupyterLab for a more full-featured code development experience.

Whether you’re using Terra on Google or on Azure, you’ll be presented with a new version of the Terra Terms of Service, which we’ve updated to reflect the expanded functionality and new multi-cloud nature of the platform.

— ☁️ —

Finally, as we close out this brief tour of the year’s achievements, we’re especially proud to celebrate the many scientific successes that Terra has already enabled. These have covered an impressive range of domains, from the Telomere-to-Telomere reference genome project to the CDC’s efforts to empower public health labs across the country to adopt genomics for biosurveillance. We look forward to many more in the coming year, featuring even greater variety — including more ‘omics data technologies beyond genomics.



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