Creating Rich Web-Based LIMS With Programmable XML Technologies


(Reprinted from American Laboratory September 2005)


Laboratory information management systems convert mass amounts of data into analytical information useful throughout the enterprise. Traditionally based on familiar client/server technology deployed in a local area network/wide area network (LAN/WAN) environment, these mission-critical computing systems have generally been isolated and fully accessible only to users connected to the laboratory’s LIMS network.  In the rush to develop products that deliver laboratory automation features through a Web browser interface, several LIMS vendors added browser front ends to existing products, offering Webenabled software. A number of these packages integrate HTML-based portal-like features that allow data consumers to prelog-in requests for testing, view sample status, and access reports. Other vendors offer serverbased options by employing emulation technology such as Microsoft Corp. (Redmond, WA) Windows™ Terminal Services (WTS) and Citrix Systems, Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, FL) MetaFram® enabling LIMS deployment over the Web.


Both of these methods focus on extending the existing application reach, making LIMS accessible to enterprise clients. These approaches presented limited graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and in some cases complex configuration management, with less than optimal response times.  Shortcomings have fueled demand for true Web-based solutions purposely built to utilize advanced Internet technology as their computing platform. A true Web-based application delivers an uncompromising “rich” user experience, together with unlimited enterprise reach.  This article examines currently available Internet deployment options and illustrates the historical development of LIMS software from standard client/server technology through Web-enabled solutions to the arrival of rich, scalable Web-based LIMS applications. This technology is illustrated by the version 10 Web-based LIMS application (STARLIMS Corp., Hollywood, FL).


Deployment options for commercial LIMS solutions


Thick client—client/server applications

The familiar client/server model has powered LIMS and most other enterprise business and manufacturing systems over the years. Impressive progress in PC hardware and system technology has enabled comprehensive client-side computing with enhanced usability, flexibility, and scalability. In client/server LIMS architecture, the client processes the user interface and performs some or all of the application processing. Servers maintain databases and process requests from clients to extract data or update databases. A LIMS application server provides additional business processing for clients. Servers and clients are connected via a LAN or WAN

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