Giving your products away may seem counterintuitive, especially in tough economic times, but Incogen is bucking conventional business wisdom by making the latest release of its VIBE workflow management software freely available to academic research groups.
The company has added an open application programming interface to the latest release of its VIBE (Visual Integrated Bioinformatics Environment) software, creating a new product called VIBE Software Development Kit, or VIBE SDK.
Incogen CEO Maciek Sasinowski said the new software was developed in response to customer requests. “The first question from everybody who saw VIBE was, ‘Can I integrate my own tools with it?’ And our answer until now was, ‘No, you really can’t, we can do it for you if you want us to.’ So we just thought it would be important to provide that ability to end users.”
VIBE supports the construction of reusable analysis pipelines via a drag-and-drop interface and comes with a suite of tools optimized for the framework. VIBE SDK broadens the set of tools that can be included in the analysis pipeline. The free academic version of VIBE SDK offers the same pipelining capabilities of the commercial version, but does not include the company’s sequence analysis software.
Opening the architecture will help the company compete with a number of companies now entering the bioinformatics market with similar pipeline-building tools (see “Pipeline Partners…” p. 1). Sasinowski said he’s not concerned that the company’s niche market has suddenly grown more crowded. “We obviously have an advantage because we’ve been doing it for awhile,” he said. “I’m not too worried about the competition.”
Beyond Genomics is already using VIBE SDK, and the company is donating it to academic partners of the Sun Centers of Excellence initiative, and several North Carolina universities.
The decision to donate the software to academic users was made “in hopes of increasing the user base,” Sasinowski said. While around half of the company’s current customers come from academia, Sasinowski said there’s little risk that the free offering will cut too deeply into its revenues. “VIBE SDK is more geared toward the bioinformatics users rather than the biologist end-users,” he said. While the hands-on developers will be happy to use the free framework to integrate their own and third-party tools, biologists will still seek the user-friendly modules that the company will continue to charge for.
VIBE SDK will be installed and tested on the NC BioGrid, with the possibility that it will eventually be included as an “integral component” of the final grid architecture.