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Versatility, Interoperability Key Attributes for Chromatography Data Systems

Today’s CDS is multifunctional, multitasking, and often vendor-neutral.

Angelo DePalma, PhD

Angelo DePalma is a freelance writer living in Newton, New Jersey. You can reach him at

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Chromatography data systems (CDSs)— the data “back end” for gas, liquid, ion, and supercritical fluid analytic chromatography—have evolved over the decades from simple chart recorders to onboard processors with minimal storage and analysis to personal computer-based and, finally, to connectivity with “peer” instruments and supervisory software systems.

Today’s CDS is multifunctional, multitasking, and often vendor-neutral. “The need for chromatography data systems to support chromatography equipment from multiple vendors is an absolute must,” says Dan Holmes, senior R&D manager at Agilent Technologies (Santa Clara, CA).

Holmes explains that his firm’s OpenLAB CDS controls chromatography systems from competitor companies, including those that are no longer in business as independent vendors. “This capability is expected from CDSs today.”

In January, Agilent introduced OpenLAB Data Store with Lab Applications, an application that provides secure central storage of data produced by Agilent’s OpenLAB chromatography data systems. The software streamlines the management of laboratory operations, assets, and regulatory compliance, according to the company. Data Store circumvents the enterprise-level software, typically designed for larger laboratories, that combines electronic notebooks, laboratory information management systems (LIMSs), and scientific data management systems. By focusing on essential tasks, OpenLAB Data Store simplifies scientific data management for smaller organizations that lack deep IT expertise. As CDSs become more technologically sophisticated, their interfaces continue to evolve toward greater intuitiveness and accessibility. “Operators used to be PhDs, then college grads, now they’re often ‘technician’ level. That has increased the demand for data system simplicity, down to counting the number of mouse clicks required to perform an operation,” Holmes says.

Working together

Interoperability and versatility are the emerging “next big things” in CDSs. In addition to managing and controlling chromatography systems, CDSs need to be mass spectrometry (MS)-capable and connect with larger data repositories such as LIMSs and laboratory execution systems. This is in stark contrast to previous control and data software, which were instrument-specific.

For example, Agilent’s ChemStation software controls liquid chromatography and MS triple quad instruments. Similarly, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s (Waltham, MA) next-generation Chromeleon CDS, introduced at Pittcon 2013, also supports MS along with mainstream separation techniques in one software package. The added functionality was introduced to accommodate the growing acceptance of MS in chromatography detection. “Growing numbers of customers want to apply mass spectrometry to routine and quantitative analyses,” says David Leitham, VP for chromatography software at Thermo Fisher. “This is the latest step in our campaign to simplify the use of analytical tools.” Chris Stumpf, PhD, senior product managing marketing manager, informatics, at Waters (Milford, MA), views interoperability as a value strategy, both from users’ and information technology perspectives.

“You have all this functionality on a chromatography workstation, but conventionally it will run only one system,” Stumpf tells Lab Manager. The duplication itself is inefficient, not to mention the training and learning curves. “Standardization—the ability to control several instruments and import data from other systems— helps reduce training costs and improve efficiency and consistency.” In the absence of interoperability data, convertibility is probably the next best thing. All major vendors provide means to “translate” data from competitors’ CDSs into their systems, although Stumpf notes that data standardization has been a slow-moving process.

The top 5 most important factors in our readers’ decisions to buy a CDS:

  1. Ease of use
  2. Service and support
  3. Price
  4. Versatility
  5. Seamless communication between different instruments and software

The solution is for chromatography system manufacturers to provide drivers that work with competitors’ data systems. Drivers consist of software similar to what enables printers and computers from two different manufacturers to work together.

For additional resources on Chromatography Data Systems, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit