Alpha system architecture will help to reveal the omega of the human genome

Houston 19 October 1998 Celera Genomics recently signed a strategic alliance agreement with Compaq Computer for the delivery of integrated hardware, software, networking and services solutions. Celera, a Rockville based unit of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, is working hard on the completion of the full sequencing of the human genome. With the support of Compaq, the new and privileged IT partner, the company hopes to reach its ambitious goal within the following three years. The unveiling of the human genome will constitute the final source of basic genomic and medical information to further the development of revolutionary therapeutic as well as diagnostic methods. For this purpose, Compaq will implement and maintain an entire IT infrastructure, based on the powerful Alpha architecture.

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Celera Genomics recently signed a strategic alliance agreement with Compaq Computer for the delivery of integrated hardware, software, networking and services solutions. Celera, a Rockville based unit of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, is working hard on the completion of the full sequencing of the human genome. With the support of Compaq, the new and privileged IT partner, the company hopes to reach its ambitious goal within the following three years. The unveiling of the human genome will constitute the final source of basic genomic and medical information to further the development of revolutionary therapeutic as well as diagnostic methods. For this purpose, Compaq will implement and maintain an entire IT infrastructure, based on the powerful Alpha architecture.

As the world's second largest computer company, Compaq has built up a solid experience in the design of scalable and reliable IT systems for the biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries. The co-operation with Celera will introduce Alpha as a real benchmark for high-performance computing in the delicate field of complex scientific applications. The study of the human genome deals as such with the structure and function of the genetic system in the body. The complete human genome includes no less than 80.000 genes and approximately six billion base pairs, which form the basic unit of DNA or RNA. Translated into IT language, the entire genome has to be considered as a text of six billion characters, without even taking into account the associated annotations.

Needless to say that these enormous amounts of data call for a high speed computing environment to adequately engineer and sequence the different DNA structures. The Celera framework will therefore consist of Alpha based servers with a mixture of Alpha and Intel workstations which will run both 64-bit Digital UNIX and Windows NT. The 64-bit systems outperform the 32-bit processors in speed as well as in quality of work. To start with, Compaq will install a series of Digital AlphaServer 8400s and Digital AlphaServer 4100s, in combination with a set of Digital AlphaServer 800s and 1200s. Each of these servers will run the two operating systems. To facilitate the research, about 200 Alpha and Compaq Professional Workstation 8000s will be provided on top of this.

The exploration of the human genome logically requires a multi-terabyte database, let alone the extensive documentation that is associated with this type of scientific research. As a result, the IT infrastructure offers a virtually unlimited storage capacity through the effective use of Compaq's high-end StorageWorks technology, which also includes intelligent networking tools and hardware to retrieve and manipulate the data. The system will enable Celera to distribute the research results to the scientific community and the interested outsider via the Internet and electronic commerce techniques. The company will receive permanent support from Compaq with regard to the database management, the network and systems integration, and the various system administration operations.

For more details on the human genome research, we refer to the article Genomic analysis refined through high performance GeneMatcher in the VMW December issue. The use of Alpha workstations in protein-fold research is described in the VMW story Computational power reduces time to discovery in protein-fold research at UCLA in the October 1998 issue.


Leslie Versweyveld

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