How to Future-Proof your Digital Lab: Limitless Customisation in an Open Ecosystem

By Julia Wilke 5 min read 05 Oct 2023

Every lab has specific workflows, indispensable equipment, and quirks to their operations. For this reason, our eLabNext platform strives to fit scientists’ flexible needs, to bend (but not break) to accommodate unique lab environments. We provide an open ecosystem that allows our users to personalise their ELN by integrating or customising any functionality within the eLabNext software. 

The following blog explains the rationale behind our open ecosystem and its benefits. 

But first, some definitions.

Introduction to the Open Ecosystem

To understand an open ecosystem, we must first explain some technical details to differentiate closed-source software from open-source software. 

The main difference between closed- and open-source platforms is the availability of the source code and the freedom surrounding the use of the code. 

What is Closed-Source Software?

The source code is unavailable to the public with closed-source software, meaning that only the software distributor’s programmers can interact with the source code. The source code is always written in one language and distributed to all users. 

Since closed-source software means no access to the public, the source code is protected and only modifiable by the organisation that has created it. This results in high security but a lack of flexibility. 

A team will always be available to help with issues and questions in a closed-source environment. It will work behind the scenes to gather feedback and constantly improve the user experience, making support rate and usability very high. 

How is Open-Source Different from Closed-Source Software? 

An open-source software source code is available to the public and can be accessed by anyone. This, of course, makes the flexibility of the software much higher since everyone can modify it and customise it to their workflow, but very little support can be offered. 

Furthermore, making the source code publicly accessible also increases the possibility of hackers accessing the software, decreasing security.  

Open-source software is usually developed and used by the same person, meaning the developers are also the users. This is typically challenging for usability since a very straightforward approach for a developer may be more challenging to understand for someone not trained in computer science. Therefore, open-source software usually is less usable than closed-source software.

The Open Ecosystem Approach

At eLabNext, we offer an open ecosystem, a middle ground that integrates both closed- and open-source software benefits. We keep our closed-source foundation but add an extra layer, allowing users to include third-party integrations, develop tailored add-ons, or combine different items into their software to customise it to their workflow and necessities. 

By adding this extra layer, we allow our users to communicate with parts of the source code of eLabNext to extend functionalities, add new features, or integrate third-party software. In an open ecosystem, the software platform is fully customizable. 

So, how can this flexibility be an advantage for your research? 

Instead of being restricted to what your systems vendor provides, you can personalise your ELN depending on what is needed for your lab. If you rely on what your vendor offers, you must pay for new features or tools that your lab might not need. The flexibility of an open ecosystem enables you to adhere to your budget while incorporating the tools you need for your research. It also helps future-proof your lab by allowing you to change the software according to how your focus and workflows will change over time. 

The eLabNext source code is largely closed and stored securely. A team of different product specialists is dedicated to working on the development, support, security measurements, and many other aspects of the software, constantly looking for ways to improve the foundational platform. As you use eLabNext, there will be regular updating, constant software monitoring, and several security measures to ensure your data’s safety. In addition, market research is done to learn about potential implementations and to receive customer feedback. 

In conclusion, an open ecosystem is the ideal combination of the flexibility of open-source software and the security of closed-source software. 

How to Find an ELN with an Open Ecosystem 

Whether or not a platform has an open ecosystem is not always clear, so there are a couple of steps you can follow so you can be sure that your chosen vendor can deliver an open ecosystem: 

  1. Ask for the availability of APIs and Software Development Kits (SDKs): These are the tools to add the extra layer that allows integration and extension.
  2. Try it yourself: There is no better way to understand a product than by using it! Ask for a demo and test the APIs as well. This is the best way of getting a clear understanding of the usability of the software and finding out if it can meet the demands and needs of your lab. 
  3. Ask questions: If you realise that the support team or your account manager is not responsive to your questions, you can already have an idea of the kind of assistance you will get as a client. Good support is crucial when choosing the system for your lab; you never know what kind of issues you might face in the future, so it is always good to ensure you have a company that will help you with this. 
  4. Check security credentials: Security is also essential, and you can make sure that this is also a priority for the company by asking for an ISO certification. Getting an ISO certification is a long and dedicated process that companies go through to demonstrate data security, so having one shows commitment to you as a user.

At eLabNext, users can customise their software by integrating third-party software applications that can work with the data from eLabNext. The API allows you to retrieve data from eLabJournal to process in third-party applications or write data generated by other software systems to eLabJournal. 

We also offer our users the ability to extend, integrate, or customise any of eLabJournal’s features using our SDKs, software tools, and programs that developers can use to create applications. With our SDK, your team can shape eLabJournal to meet the exact needs of your lab processes by adding new features, creating new buttons to combine functions, and more.

We also offer a Marketplace conveniently available on the eLabNext platform. In the Marketplace, you can find several add-ons developed by us or third-party software companies integrated into eLabNext. Users can easily find, install, and use these tools from the Marketplace immediately.

Most add-ons are free, meaning you don’t need to spend extra money to integrate the tools you already have.

You can test everything, and we are waiting for your questions! Contact us here to access a flexible ELN for your lab’s needs.

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