University of Edinburgh awarded IBM e-Server p690 for in-silico genetic and medical reserach

London 18 February 2003At an event hosted in the e-Science Institute at the University of Edinburgh, IBM donated one of its flagship e-Server p690 to the internationally renowned School of Informatics. The IBM eServer e-Series p690 is equipped with 16 processors, 128 GB of memory, and several terabytes of disk. The award is being made to a team of database experts led by Professors Malcolm Atkinson and Peter Buneman in Edinburgh and IBM's Research Division in Almaden, California. The Edinburgh and IBM teams will use the machine to investigate how to use scientific data to accelerate in-silico research in areas such as genetics, medicine, and engineering.

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The University of Edinburgh also hosts the National e-Science Centre (NeSC) with Professor Atkinson as its Director, and is leading the United Kingdom's efforts to develop the successor to the Internet: the Grid. The Grid will permit the easy collaboration of a large group of scientists scattered across the world but working on the same problem.

Dr. Andy Knox, a technical staff member in IBM, explained: "One of the many problems scientists and engineers face today is information overload. Over the last few years the explosion of scientific data means that storage and analysis of data is as big a challenge as the research itself."

"The human genome is a good example. We possess the raw data, but we need to analyse and understand it so that drugs to combat conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can be developed. The task is so complex powerful computers are needed to process the work in a fraction of the time that it would take to do manually."

Today, many scientists spend as much time integrating their computer systems, and other scientists' data, as they do working on their actual scientific problem. The Grid will effectively create "virtual organisations" so that scientists are able to concentrate on the job in hand and collaborate on joint research projects.

This donation is an important step in IBM's developing relationship with the University of Edinburgh and the NeSC, providing a platform for accelerating academic research into Computing Grids, Databases, BioInfomatics, Life Sciences and e-Science in general. This strategy will develop international links between IBM Research and research groups in Edinburgh.

IBM distinguished engineer Freddie Moran stated: "The e-Science programme is part of Scotland's future, and what the Intermediary Technology Institutes, recently announced by Scottish Enterprise, are designed to promote. e-Science and Informatics need to be demystified and explained in such a way that everyone can understand that they are as valuable as, for instance, medical research. More importantly, they are a key enabler to growing world class Life Science research and investment in Scotland."

Professor G.S. Boulton, University Vice Principal, stated: "In many areas of science and for many years, we have been doing experiments and monitoring nature in ways that have created data mountains. In practice we have only used the tiny fraction of this data that seemed relevant to ideas that we wanted to test or exploit at the time. We are now beginning to realise that this data represents a goldmine of untapped knowledge, such that in many important areas, as biology, astronomy, materials, exploring it with the aid of powerful computers is likely to be a more productive source of new knowledge than the classical one of experimentation."

"The gift by IBM of a machine that will permit this agenda to be pursued, is the outcome of sustained interactions between the University and IBM, in which we see a win for all collaborators; in new science, in exploring and exploiting the potential of new technologies, and in new processes. From the University's perspective, the relationship with IBM is a model of industry-university collaboration, based on a convergence of scientific and industrial interests, that has the potential to put Scotland in pole position in new and powerful technologies."


Leslie Versweyveld

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