On Cloud Nine
20 DEC 2020
These days, you wouldn't get very far at all without cloud computing, either in business or in your personal life. More and more companies are collaborating with the major Silicon Valley providers when it comes to this topic.
At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we not only use this technology in our everyday work, but we are also creating an important technical prerequisite for the cloud with the semiconductor materials from our Electronics business sector.
From the hard drive into the cloud
Nowadays, when I take photos with my cellphone, it is a given that these photos will instantly and automatically be available on my tablet and laptop and shared with my family at the same time. Everyone now knows about the technology behind it, which has been given the lofty-sounding name, “cloud”. Our music, movies and video games have also been coming from the data cloud for a long time. CDs and Blu-Rays are increasingly becoming collector's items in the era of streaming services, such as Spotify, Netflix and Google Stadia. The data simply migrate from local data storage media into the cloud, i.e. external data centers.
In the cloud, you therefore no longer need to worry about storage capacity, computing power or applications. Software providers, such as SAP increasingly sell their products as a cloud solution. However, cloud computing not only changes the business models of tech companies. These days, technology is a central element for practically every company when it comes to them digitalizing their own business processes. This concerns a central data storage location and software applications for working in the office on the one hand and, increasingly, networking between machines in the smart factory on the other.
The crucial advantage of cloud solutions is that companies require fewer of their own local data centers. In a study by the market research company Lünendonk, the companies surveyed also indicated that they count on cloud services in particular because of the easy scalability, which enables the flexible coverage of peak loads, for example. A further frequently cited reason for the use of the cloud is the high security standards.
United States and China are one step ahead
The topic of security is crucial for cloud services because companies sometimes put confidential and business-critical data into the hands of cloud providers. To decrease dependency on providers from the United States and China and catch up with the global competition, the EU member states only recently signed a declaration for the founding of a European Cloud Federation.
After all, more and more companies – as well as traditional industrial sectors – count on cloud. According to Cloud Monitor 2020 by Bitkom Research and KPMG, three out of four companies already use cloud computing – and this trend is increasing. They frequently join forces with well-known American tech giants for this purpose. Three of the world’s four largest cloud providers, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google, come from the United States. The Chinese provider Alibaba is also trying to continue its success in its home market in other countries.
For example, Volkswagen is collaborating with Amazon Web Services for the networking of its over 120 factories all over the world and the integration of its global supply chain. Likewise, together with Microsoft, the tire manufacturer Bridgestone has developed the world’s largest monitoring system for recognizing flat tires in real-time. This is also based on a cloud platform.
A further example of the use of Cloud Computing at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is our digital laboratory informatics system LANEXO. Using RFID labels (radio-frequency identification) that are read out with a smartphone, samples can quickly be registered and categorized in the laboratory and inventories can be checked. The system automatically calculates process data, thus preventing scientists from continuing to work with incorrect reagents. You can see how exactly LANEXO works in the following video.
For us at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, the cloud technology is significant for two reasons. Firstly, we use it ourselves as examples from BrightLab and LANEXO clearly demonstrate. At the same time, in Electronics, we are creating an important basis for the cloud technology with our specialty chemicals for the semiconductor industry. After all, cloud computing relies not least on powerful computer chips.
In any case, the technology is one crucial prerequisite for the digital transformation, no matter whether it concerns smartphones, autonomous vehicles in the smart city or machines in the digital factory. Without cloud and the networking possibilities enabled as a result, there would be little point to these applications. The Electronics business sector of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is proud to make a contribution here.