The new normal: portable workflows

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The new normal: portable workflows

Portable workflows

Since 2014, researchers around the world, including engineers and scientists at Seven Bridges, have been developing the Common Workflow Language (CWL) specification. The ambitious goal of this project is to enable portable, reproducible and scalable biomedical data analysis. In other words – enabling the same workflow (including the precise tool version, dependencies, and parameters) to be easily executed on any architecture that supports CWL. Over the past months we’ve watched the CWL community grow from a handful of enthusiastic members to having a membership more than 150 strong. More than ten implementations have been developed and new ways to share workflows described in CWL continue to emerge. We’re honored and delighted to be a part of this transformative community.

Nearly a year ago, we introduced the ability to run applications described in CWL on the Seven Bridges Platform. To exploit the full functionality of CWL, we made significant upgrades to our execution and data management frameworks and made these applications available in Developer Projects only.

Since the initial release, we’ve worked to make creating CWL-based tools and workflows faster and easier for all researchers. When you bring your own tools to the Platform, using the Seven Bridges SDK, you create a Common Workflow Language (CWL) description of each tool. One line of this description refers to a Docker container in which the tool, and all its dependencies, are installed. Using Seven Bridges’ Tool Editor, you create the remainder of the CWL description, e.g. input names, default parameters, by entering information into graphical fields. Since CWL is not tied to any particular implementation, the resulting tool description is platform-agnostic — you can run it anywhere that reads CWL.

What this means for you

Given what we think are the very significant advantages of CWL, Seven Bridges is making developer projects the default project type on the Platform. From April 11th, we’ll be dropping the DEV tag that distinguishes developer projects from the older project type, and labeling older projects as LEGACY.

You can copy files from LEGACY projects into developer projects (which, from now, we’ll refer to simply as ‘projects’). As always, you don’t pay for multiple copies of the same file, so it won’t cost you anything to create new projects for files you are currently using in LEGACY projects. Additionally, if you wish to continue using the older framework, just select ‘create LEGACY project’ on the project creation dialogue, however, no new functionalities will be added to this project type.

In addition to making it easier to deploy your own tools and workflows on the Seven Bridges Platform, we have made parallel improvements in other areas. Specifically, the new framework provides a number of substantial advantages that help you learn from bioinformatics data faster including:

  • More effective collaboration
  • Easy ways to automate your analyses
  • Greater visibility and control of your executions
  • Faster executions of tasks at scale
  • More flexible and cost effective methods of data storage
  • Enhanced portability and reproducibility

Over the next weeks we’ll highlight each of these areas to help you get the most out of the Seven Bridges Platform.

As always, if you have questions or comments about the new framework or any other functionality of the Seven Bridges Platform, please get in touch with our support team at