Organon speeds drug discovery with SGI technology

Mountain View 26 October 2005To accelerate research and reduce time to discovery, pharmaceutical company Organon International, the human health care business unit of conglomerate Akzo Nobel, purchased a variety of Silicon Graphics technology to substantially upgrade their primary research centre in Oss, The Netherlands. Organon is a global expert in the development of prescription medicines in the areas of contraception, fertility, hormone therapy, mental health, and anaesthesia, with sales to over 100 countries. The migration to a high-speed SGI InfiniteStorage storage area network (SAN) began in October 2004, with Organon selecting SGI Professional Services to design an accelerated work flow with a variety of existing systems in mind. Integration of the new SGI storage area network (SAN) and legacy hardware, including older SGI servers and storage, was completed in March of this year.


"We use our compute resources to support research with bioinformatics and cheminformatics technologies", stated Rene van Schaik, Head of Molecular Information Technologies, Organon. "Our primary goal in upgrading to a SAN solution was to give our scientists more speed, higher computational performance, and greater flexibility. And they needed to be able to use their existing software. We wanted a shared-memory machine to handle much larger datasets. Finally, we wanted a transparent storage solution with a shorter back-up window. We had SGI TP9100 disk arrays, and we wanted to add to our storage set-up rather than start from scratch. It was a complex project because it involved other vendors and two organisations within Organon. SGI offered us the simplest upgrade path."

Organon replaced two older SGI servers with an SGI Altix 350 system with 32GB of memory running Linux Enterprise Server 9 operating environment on 16 Intel Itanium 2 processors, and a 16-processor SGI Origin 3800 system running the SGI IRIX OS. The Oss centre also operates an Intel Architecture 32-bit (IA32) Linux cluster and two Sun Solaris servers. One Sun system runs VERITAS Mediaserver for back-up; the other is a production server. All systems communicate over an SGI InfiniteStorage SAN running SGI InfiniteStorage Shared Filesystem CXFS, which gives users instant, concurrent access to data on all platforms across a multi-speed 2Gb/1Gb SAN with two 2Gb, 16-port FibreChannel switches.

The SGI CXFS SAN provides access to five file systems located on four SGI InfiniteStorage TP9100 disk arrays and to 8TB of archived data on a StorageTek L-180 tape library with four LTO gen-2 tape drives. Twenty-two SGI workstations, primarily Silicon Graphics Fuel visualization systems, are used for 3D molecular visualization.

"We now have an SGI SAN storage solution and a transparent pool of disk space for our four different types of machines", concluded Rene van Schaik. "Data communication is much faster. We had a lot of NFS-related performance issues that are now gone. And thanks to CXFS we no longer have multiple versions of the data on the network. That means less network traffic and reduced storage requirements. Our scientists can now submit queries that were not possible in the past. They can do longer simulations, and they have transparent access to all resources. We can do more computations at higher speed, and we have more storage available. There is no question that our results are going to improve."

Organon operates a similar but smaller-scale facility at its Newhouse, Scotland, research centre, including an SGI Origin 3000 server, a Linux cluster, and a SGI InfiniteStorage CXFS Shared Filesystem SAN.

"Maintaining leadership and a competitive edge in Organon's business requires the sustained effort of scientists with access to powerful computing resources", stated Roberto Gomperts, principal scientist in the Applications Engineering Group, SGI. "The SGI Altix environment in the new Shared Filesystem CXFS infrastructure has increased throughput and productivity, providing researchers with compute resources they never had before."

Organon, with shared head offices in Roseland, New Jersey, USA and Oss, The Netherlands, creates, manufactures and markets prescription medicines that improve the health and quality of human life. Through a combination of independent growth and business partnerships, Organon strives to remain or become one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in each of its core therapeutic fields: reproductive medicine, psychiatry and anaesthesia. Organon products are sold in over 100 countries, of which more than 60 have an Organon subsidiary. Organon is the human health care business unit of Akzo Nobel.

More news about SGI can be found in the VMW September 2005 article SGI to install leading-edge HPC environment for data-intensive computing at Dresden Technical University.

Leslie Versweyveld

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