Amazon, Google duke it out for control of cloud genomics

The battlefront between Amazon ($AMZN) and Google ($GOOG) covers a diverse range of fields, from online search and advertising, to smartphones and shopping. Increasingly, genomics is emerging as another hotspot, with both companies scrambling to establish themselves as the place to store and analyze DNA data.

Reuters profiled the fight, which has been bubbling away for several years, in a feature this week. The picture that emerges is of two tech giants throwing their weight around in an attempt to carve out a dominant position in a market tipped to grow to be worth $1 billion a year by 2018. Pricing is now down to $4 to $5 a month per genome at Amazon. Google reportedly charges $3 to $5 for the same service. Both firms know small price differences are unlikely to provide decisive, though, and are trying to differentiate themselves in other ways.

The hosting of high-profile, big science projects is one source of kudos. Both companies host data from the 1000 Genomes Project for free, while Autism Speaks and the Multiple Myeloma Foundation picked Google and Amazon, respectively, when they needed storage for their genome sequencing programs. Storage is just one part of such deals, with Amazon and Google also pushing to provide faster, more effective data transfers and computing processes. Amazon charges 25 cents an hour or $1,000 per terabyte per year for its database-analysis tool, Redshift.

J. Craig Venter

With both companies looking for any edge in the field, it is users that should benefit. J. Craig Venter outlined what is at stake in a description of what happened when he tried to move data between two of his organizations. Attempts to transfer data between the servers of the J. Craig Venter Institute and Human Longevity proved to be so slow the team started sending physical storage devices housing the data by courier. Human Longevity now uses Amazon Web Services and Venter expects others to follow him to the cloud.

"The cloud is the entire future of this field," Venter said.

- read Reuters' feature