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What’s new in the Terraverse in January 2022

While many of us have been having a rough start to the year 2022, there have nonetheless been some exciting news rolling out over the past few weeks in the Terra ecosystem. Here is a quick recap of the headlines to get you all caught up. 


Journal appearances for Terra and the AnVIL 

To kick off the year, Terra was featured in 2022’s first issue of Nature! Technology editor Jeffrey Perkel interviewed researchers who actively use Terra and summarized the key takeaways of their experiences in an insightful article that declares “Terra takes the pain out of ‘omics’ computing in the cloud”

Then the AnVIL paper came out in Cell Genomics the very next week. Led by Michael Schatz from Johns Hopkins University and featuring a proverbial football team of contributors, this landmark open access paper describes the purpose, architecture and usage of the AnVIL project, including Terra. (See also our previous blog post, How Terra fits within the AnVIL ecosystem for a quick primer.)


Singular Genomics to integrate new G4 sequencer with Terra 

The sequencing technology market has been bubbling with new developments, and it’s not just about the chemistry and instrumentation — we’re also seeing some exciting efforts from manufacturers to streamline the process of getting data off the sequencer and into the researcher’s analysis environment. 

Case in point, Singular Genomics sweetened the recent launch of their new G4 sequencer with a plan to make the instrument integrate with Terra, which will empower G4 users to import their freshly sequenced data straight into Terra for analysis. We look forward to collaborating with Singular on this, and can readily envision Terra workspaces equipped with pipelines and tools preconfigured to run on the data produced by the G4 instrument. 


Microsoft’s Cromwell on Azure 3.0 supports setting VM size per task

Cromwell is the workflow manager that Terra uses to make it so easy to run pipelines at scale in Terra. It can be used outside of Terra as a standalone command-line program, and is in fact used by many groups around the world to run pipelines on a variety of platforms (including on-premises servers and HPCs). 

“Cromwell on Azure” is a solution developed by Microsoft to empower command-line users to run workflows through Cromwell on the Azure cloud, leveraging Azure Batch as the execution service, with minimal configuration and deployment burden. (See the Github readme to learn more about how to use Cromwell on Azure in practice.)

The version 3.0 of Cromwell on Azure released earlier this week provides a number of enhancements, most important of which is the ability for workflow authors to select a specific Azure VM size for each workflow task. This is a big deal because “right-sizing” VMs — i.e. choosing VM sizes that fit each task depending on the tool and amount of data involved — is critical for optimizing workflows for speed and cost. 

What does this mean about Azure support in Terra itself, you ask? Well, you can take it as a sign that we’ve been actively working on it since Microsoft joined the Terra partnership last year, and individual pieces are starting to materialize. We expect to have more concrete information and timelines to share on this topic in the not-too-distant future, so watch this space — and subscribe to the Terra newsletter so you don’t miss any of the many exciting updates on the horizon.

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