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EXCLUSIVE: Structural Genomix Picks Compaq for Structural Informatics Systems

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 6 - Structural Genomix has committed to buy $2 million to $3 million worth of equipment from Compaq and to explore a longer-term strategic relationship with the firm, both companies told GenomeWeb .

"We are committed to an initial purchase," said Tod Klingler, vice president of information sciences at SGX, and we "will use the experience going forward to decide future computing needs" for the company.

Under the deal, Compaq, which on Tuesday announced it would be acquired by rival Hewlett-Packard, will supply SGX with an Alpha compute farm and a Linux/Intel compute farm, according to Daniel Joy, business development manager for the Life Sciences Group at Compaq.

This part of the deal represents the first phase of a three-part agreement between the companies, according to Klingler.

(For a sidebar on SGX's San Francisco facility and the company's plans for the new Compaq hardware, click here .)

HP ACQUISITION APPEARS TO PLAY NEUTRAL ROLE

Hewlett-Packard's plan to acquire Compaq during the middle of next year does not immediately affect SGX's purchase, according to individuals at both companies. Before the acquisition was announced, the sale was going to include a long-term strategic relationship and possibly an equity investment by Compaq in SGX, according to Lionel Binns, worldwide life and materials sciences group manager for high performance technical computing at Compaq.

Sources within Compaq now say that the impending deal with HP has not changed Compaq's outlook in terms of potential equity investment in SGX or its relationship with the company.

"I'm not too nervous [about the acquisition] because it will be at least a year before anything drastic would happen, and the worst would be a cut back in life sciences," said Klingler. "A year in computation is a long time. If we have to change partners, we will. At phase two and phase three we will again make a decision of who to partner with. Unlike GeneProt, we did not commit to a full package."

CHOOSING COMPAQ

The choice to go with Compaq was based on SGX's computational group's experience with Compaq's Alpha technology, said Klingler, who called it the "fastest and most efficient to run algorithms and in setting up large data centers" for SGX's protein computation applications.

Another selling point was Compaq's experience, which includes supplying Celera Genomics and GeneProt with computing equipment, according to Tim Harris, CEO of SGX. "If you judge companies by the company you keep, I don't mind being with Celera and GeneProt," he said.

It was perhaps a sign of things to come that the week SGX decided on Compaq equipment, according to sources close to the deal, Compaq announced it was phasing out its Alpha chip and migrating, with Alpha chip technology, to Intel's Itanium, which HP co-developed.

Klingler said he is "comfortable" with that switch, adding that the transition "makes sense."   

"The path forward will be the best of both worlds [with] Intel and Compaq," Klingler said.

An in-depth version of this article may be read in the Sept. 10 issue of BioInform .

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