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Terra’s roadmap to supporting more analysis applications

Alessandro Culotti is a Senior Product Manager in the Data Sciences Platform at the Broad Institute. He is responsible for Terra’s Interactive Analysis product direction and strategy. In this guest blog post, Alessandro lays out his vision for expanding the selection of analysis applications that can be used in Terra.


Since we introduced the new Analyses tab as an updated interface for creating and launching Cloud Environments (on an opt-in basis), we’ve received a lot of great feedback from the many members of the Terra community who have signed up to use it. That feedback is helping us further improve the interface, which is an important component of the work we are doing to better serve the research needs and preferences we are hearing from the community. 

In that spirit, I wanted to give you more visibility into our plans for making it possible to run a wider variety of analysis applications in Terra, in addition to the current lineup of Jupyter Notebook, RStudio and Galaxy.


Expanding the selection of integrated apps

As my colleague Sara Salahi previously touched on when she described her vision for supporting more workflow languages, we have been developing a new model for serving applications through Terra’s Cloud Environments system. Sara’s blog mentioned the prospect of running single-tenant instances of the Cromwell workflow manager, and of other workflow managers that will be added subsequently. (Don’t forget to vote in the Feature Requests section if you want us to prioritize CWL support, Nextflow support or something else!) 

We’re also planning to use that same system to integrate other third-party applications like the UCSC Genome Browser, which needs no introduction, and the Hail Batch Service, which facilitates running analyses based on the Hail genetics framework at large scale. 

Once those initial integrations are live, we plan to continue adding more applications to the platform based on the needs of the communities we support, which includes large consortia such as AnVIL and of course, the many individual researchers and labs who use Terra independently. If there is an application you would like to use in Terra, please post a Feature Request, or upvote the relevant request if what you want has already been suggested.  


Official integration or “bring-your-own-app”?

For applications with a wide appeal, we aim to collaborate with third-party developers to produce a containerized version of their application that can be made available to everyone through Terra as an “official” app. 

For other applications, we are considering a template-based system that would empower individual developers — including computational biologists and bioinformaticians who are comfortable with a certain level of coding— to produce their own “custom” app and run it within their own environments. We are very interested in hearing from people who would want to use such a capability; if that’s you, please upvote the “bring-your-own-app” feature request in the forum, and/or reach out to the support team if you’re willing to provide detailed input on this question.


We look forward to rolling out the first of these new app integrations later this year, and in the meantime, we hope to hear from you so we can adjust our plans to best suit your needs!



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