Windocks helps Novartis improve patient outcomes and compliance



Novartis is a 100,000 employee global healthcare company powered by advanced therapy platforms and data science. Patient outcomes are improved by high quality clinical, genomic and other data, and analytics. Novartis faced key challenges:

  • How to continuously deliver high quality software releases that make the data available to clinicians to improve patient outcomes
  • How to make high quality data easily available for researchers and others who are authorized to analyze the data
  • Ensuring compliance with patient data security requirements


Novartis required a database orchestration system that would orchestrate multiple services such as security, data cloning and containers to deliver large SQL Server databases on demand to event driven continuous integration / deployment (CI/CD) devops pipelines as well as authorized individuals, while ensuring compliance and auditability.

Evaluating solutions and selecting Windocks

While evaluating solutions, Novartis found that Windocks offered three unique capabiities:

  • SQL Server container service for Windows Windocks offered the only SQL Server container service for Windows. Containers were important to Novartis because their CI/CD pipelines required dev, test and staging environments to be delivered and torn down quickly. Pipelines were already deploying applications using containers and it was natural to need containers for the data as well. Since Novartis was using Active Directory security and had its production data on SQL Server Windows, they naturally selected Windocks for the database orchestration solution because it included SQL Server Windows containers
  • No code required - The Windocks database orchestration service uniquely offered the ability to avoid writing and maintaining code to manage storage infrastruture, clone volumes, mount volumes, attach databases to database servers, tracking clones, remove databases, etc. Instead Novartis team members had to merely provide a config spec in the form of a dockerfile and the Windocks database orchestration system automatically orchestrates the cloning, security, containerization and delivery of the data based on the dockerfile
  • Open, standards based technology - Windocks includes a data cloning service based on standard operating system file systems, a container service based on standard container technology / API from Docker Inc, standard Kubernetes support, and security for containers based on standard Active Directory. Alternative offerings from other solutions were based on proprietary file systems and had no container or Kubernetes support

Benefits to the Novartis technology team

These unique capabilities described above delivered powerful benefits to the Novartis technology team, enabling them to align easily with the business teams to deliver success quickly

  • Ease of deployment Within 3 weeks, Novartis was able to successfully deploy Windocks with their data and delivered a successful proof of concept. They took full advantage of the Windocks full featured evaluation edition and 30 day support provided at no-cost
  • Ease of maintenance Over time, the Novartis team discovered that they had minimal maintenance work because of the "no code required" capabilities of Windocks. Changes to data requirements merely had to be provided in the form of a spec (dockerfile). The Windocks orchestration service automatically delivers based on the changed spec (dockerfile).
  • Ease of collaboration across teams in different regions Novartis teams in UK, India, and Spain worked together to deliver the database orchestration for devops pipelines and reporting. Because Windocks is a modern server side only technology, it was easy for these remote teams to work together on the rollout without having to track client side installs which all the other alternatives required. Post rollout, technology team members, clinicians, researchers all have the ability to work together easily on the same data because Windocks delivers identical clones from the same data image. People in different regions can collaborate easily because they do not need client side tools and have identical clones of the same data.

What does the deployed database orchestration solution look like

The successful rollout of the Windocks database orchestration service above all has fitted in easily into the existing continuous integration / deployment pipelines and systems that deliver data to researchers and clinicians. The solution includes the following components:

  • Database orchestration service - This is the overall Windocks database orchestration services that uses a spec to orchestrate the security service, data cloning service, and the container service to continuously deliver data on demand
  • Database cloning - The Windocks data cloning service is based on the Windows file system and delivers clones of very large databases in seconds. While Windocks orchestration also has the ability to use other cloning services based on legacy proprietary file systems, this is not being used at Novartis
  • Container service - Windocks SQL Server container service for Windows is used to stand up SQL Server environments running on different ports all on a single machine. These SQL Server containers use Active Directory authentication. Windocks database orchestration also supports Linux docker container services for SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, PostGre, though these are not being used currently at Novartis.
  • Security service - Windocks authorizes users to use the database orchestration service based on user accounts and groups. Different "data images" can be configured to authorize access to different groups of people. While Windocks provides data masking or orchestrates more sophisticated data privacy solutions from companies like IRI, Curiosity and Mentis, Novartis uses its own data masking solution

Benefits to the Novartis business

The deployment of modern database orchestration (cloning, security, and containers) for devops has resulted in Novartis being able to continuously deliver technology improvements and data to clinicians and researchers helping with better patient outcomes. These improvements were accompanied by better compliance with patient data security regulations.

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