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PSSC Labs Looks to Expand its Reach in the Life Sciences Market with New Hardware Release


By Uduak Grace Thomas

At the annual Bio-IT World conference slated to begin next week in Boston, hardware firm PSSC Labs plans to present the Powerserve Quattro I/A 4000, a supercomputer designed for life sciences researchers.

The Lake Forest, Calif.-based company said it designed its new application server to meet the demands of genome sequencing.

Priced at $14,995, the computer can be configured with up to 48 processor cores, 1 terabyte of memory, and 30 TB of storage space.

Earlier this year, PSSC Labs announced that it had in stock two new computing platforms, the PowerServe Quattro I4800 and the PowerServe Quattro A41200, both of which support up to 512 gigabytes of high performance system memory.

To meet the needs of its life sciences customers, the company is ensuring that both platforms will be able to run a variety of genome sequencing programs such as Casava and Bioscope.

Both systems provide large quantities of memory in a single system as well as "turnkey solutions, including application installation and management tools," freeing researchers to focus on their work and not systems management, Alex Lesser, PSSC Labs' vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement.

The PowerServe Quattro I4800 is based on the Intel Xeon architecture and contains 32 processor cores that can support up to 40 terabytes of redundant storage space. Based on AMD Opteron architecture, the PowerServe Quattro I41200 contains 48 processor cores providing up to 40 TB of redundant storage space.

Starting prices for the new systems are below $15,000 and the systems can be customized to meet budget restrictions and client specifications, the company said.

Lesser told BioInform that the company primarily targets researchers in facilities with limited budgets who need a turnkey solution to handle their data needs. He added that PSSC is the only hardware company that offers a "completely preconfigured compute and storage solution that has multiple bioinformatics applications preinstalled and ready to run out of the box."

One customer, Kevin Thornton, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, told BioInform via e-mail that he has used a 40-node cluster from PSSC for some simulation projects. Thornton said his lab will soon upgrade to a 96-node cluster from the company. His lab also has an 8-core server from PSSC that provides 128 gigabytes of RAM and 20 TB of storage, which he uses for analyzing Illumina data.

Thornton uses Illumina whole-genome sequencing to study the evolution of genome structure in the genus Drosophila. "Basically, we are using paired-end sequencing to look for genome rearrangements within populations of different fruit fly species," he explained.

Christian Gilissen, a bioinformatician at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, told BioInform that his institution increased its compute power from one to two PowerWulf clusters — also from PSSC — about the same time it increased its sequencing capacity from one to three SOLiD sequencing instruments.

Gilissen said his lab needed the compute power and sequencers to support its exome sequencing research efforts. Specifically, he said the researchers use Life Technologies' preinstalled BioScope software for sequence mapping and variant calling. They also use the cluster to run a Java-based custom software package for variant annotation.

Currently, he said, the researchers churn out about 400 GB of genomic data per week.

He said the university initially purchased PSSC's seven-node cluster, with 24 GB per node, to handle data from its Roche 454 platform. With the addition of the new SOLiD sequencers, the university purchased a second 10-node cluster.

PSSC counts SeqWright among its commercial clients. Earlier this year, the company said it had acquired a PowerWulf Grande Compute Engine as part of a broader effort to expand its next-generation sequencing and sequence data analysis capabilities (BI 01/14/2011).

Last summer, the firm partnered with CLC Bio to launch CLC Genomics Factory, a full genome analysis platform that includes hardware and software for assembly, read mapping, and downstream analysis of large quantities of high-throughput DNA and RNA sequence data (BI 08/13/2010).

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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