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BioTeam Launches Early Access Program to Test Drive New SlipStream Galaxy Appliance

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Bioinformatics consultancy firm BioTeam has launched an early access program for its SlipStream Appliance: Galaxy Edition, a new product scheduled for general release later this year that couples the company's SlipStream server appliance with the Galaxy analysis software — an open, web-based research platform developed and maintained by researchers at Pennsylvania State and Emory Universities.

BioTeam Co-founder and CEO Stan Gloss told BioInform that the EAP will run from its July 1 launch date until the product's general release in November and that the company will accept up to 20 early access customers.

Anushka Brownley, the company's product manager, added that BioTeam hopes to enroll both academic and commercial participants and it also wants to work with customers wanting to analyze different kinds of data such as next-generation sequencing, RNA-seq, whole genome data, and so on.

The EAP is a chance "to work closely with a few people in the Galaxy community to make sure that their needs are met by the appliance" and "better understand and help them with the workflows that they want to build and analysis tools that they want to run," she said. In return, "they would give us some detailed feedback about their operations and how they conduct their analyses and things like that … so that we can make sure that we build out the Galaxy appliance … with that feedback in mind."

Furthermore, it's an opportunity to gather and, ultimately, make available via SlipStream "best practices workflows for people who aren't as familiar with doing analysis and that are not sure how to begin with their data," she added.

A base configuration of SlipStream Galaxy includes 2 Intel Xeon E5-2690 processors — 16 cores total — 384 gigabytes of random access memory, a 100GB SSD, and 16 terabytes of usable storage. It includes tools for assembly, annotation, variant calling, and more, as well as pre-loaded reference datasets for human, mouse, Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

The starting price for the aforementioned appliance configuration is about $20,000 but that figure could rise if users want more functionality in their systems such as additional storage space or RAM. BioTeam also offers IT support and services such as custom interfaces, process automation, software integrations, and more.

"People don't have to worry about the installation [and] they don’t have to worry about making sure all of the tools and their dependencies are correctly configured," BioTeam's Brownley said. Additionally, users "have a central storage analysis system so … [data] transfer is more optimized that way [and] the analysis runs faster because it’s a dedicated infrastructure," she said.

For the Galaxy team, the new product provides an alternative infrastructure option for its community of more than 31,000 users and growing.

Currently, researchers can download and run Galaxy locally if they choose to or they can take advantage of a cloud-enabled version of the platform that runs on Amazon Web Services and other cloud platforms (BI 11/11/2011). However, there are users that prefer to run their analysis jobs on the public Galaxy Main server hosted by Penn State, and the project's developers say they can no longer support the volume of submitted jobs.

The "analysis needs to be decentralized," James Taylor, an associate professor at Emory University and one of Galaxy's founders said in a statement. "One great way to do this is by having local Galaxy instances … unfortunately this presents barriers for many groups." BioTeam's ready-made solution, he continued, eliminates these technological challenges and enables research groups to run the platform internally with "minimal effort."

A portion of the profits from SlipStream Galaxy sales will be donated to the Galaxy project to support ongoing development of the platform.

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