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TurboWorx Marks Completion of Blackstone Integration with Launch of New Product Suite

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Five months after acquiring Blackstone Computing, TurboWorx is marking the occasion with what CEO Jeff Augen describes as the “real launch” of the company.

The cornerstone of the “real launch” is a revamped product suite that combines elements of Blackstone’s PowerCloud cluster management software with TurboWorx’s distributed IT management and application workflow solutions. “This is the first time we’ve come out with an integrated set of products based on Blackstone and TurboWorx, so we’re not just selling what we had,” Augen said. “We acquired this other company, we reorganized, we put the two pieces together, we de- cided how we wanted to be structured … and we launched a new set of products into the marketplace.”

Up until last week, the TurboWorx product portfolio included its TurboBench and TurboHub products for managing life science applications across distributed IT infrastructures, a parallelized version of Blast called TurboBlast, and Blackstone’s PowerCloud cluster management product. Now, Augen said, the company has reengineered the lineup to create a three-tiered offering: TurboWorx Builder, a low-cost desktop product to design and run application workflows; TurboWorx Group, which allows up to five users to share workflows created using Builder; and TurboWorx Enterprise for organizations with up to hundreds of users.

The price for TurboWorx Builder is $499, Augen said, and users can download it directly from the company’s website, http://www.turbo worx.com). TurboWorx Group is priced at $1,000 per five-user license, and TurboWorx Enterprise is $5,000 per license.

Augen said the company has already sold five licenses to companies beta-testing the products. “We actually ended the beta early and just started selling the product because it was going well,” he said.

Steady Growth

TurboWorx has witnessed its share of changes since it was founded in 2000 as TurboGenomics, but unlike those faced by many bioinformatics companies, most of those changes have been positive ones. Launched with 10 employees in New Haven, Conn., the company now employs around 50 people in three offices: its new Burlington, Mass., headquarters; Oxford, UK; and Shelton, Conn. Augen, who took the reins as CEO last October following a stint as worldwide director of strategy for IBM’s Life Science Solutions unit, told BioInform at the time that his goal was “to make this a big company.” [BioInform 10-14-02]

Where does TurboWorx stand one year later? “Now it’s sort of like a small version of a big company,” Augen joked. “I’m trying to think of it as a large company in its early stages and I’m trying to build it that way.” One step toward this goal was recruiting a full executive team that includes Stuart Bernstein, who joined from Blackstone and serves as vice president of global sales and marketing; Srini Chari, another IBM alum who holds the position of vice president of technical operations; and Andrew Sherman, TurboWorx founder and CTO.

Augen said he introduced a few other “big company” attributes to TurboWorx in the last year, including a “robust” quality assurance program, a well-defined technical roadmap, and a consulting and professional services group — not to mention spearheading the acqui- sition of Blackstone (called Argentys at the time) in April.

TurboWorx, which Augen said is on track to reach cash-flow-positive by early next year, has es- chewed VC funding so far and is unlikely to pursue it in the future. “We pay our bills with money that comes in from revenues from selling the products,” he said.

The company has additional financial support from the investment bank Trautman, Wasserman & Co., which has funded the company since it was launched.

A New Start

With the pieces in place to embark upon a new phase of growth, the time is right, Augen said, for TurboWorx to re-introduce itself to the marketplace. Although the company has been marketing its technology for three years, “They were simple, early products, and I don’t [hold the] view that they were really the launch of the company,” he said.

Each product in the new lineup includes features of the company’s original TurboBench and TurboHub technology, which allows researchers to integrate a series of applications into a single workflow via a graphical interface. Currently, researchers manually feed the output from one application into the next, or rely on extensive libraries of Perl scripts to automate the process — options that consume countless man-hours, Augen said. The TurboWorx technology uses “wrappers” written for each application that allow end-users to build integrated research pipelines with a few clicks of a mouse, he said.

Augen acknowledged that the company is not alone in the workflow optimization space. Companies like SciTegic, Incogen, KooPrime, and the Science Factory are all offering products to integrate bioinformatics applications; while Platform Com-puting, Avaki, United Devices, and a host of other firms sell software to manage distributed computing resources. What sets TurboWorx apart, Augen said, is its ability to address both ends of the spectrum: managing workflow while also scaling to very large heterogeneous clusters. In addition, he said, it takes only a few minutes to write new wrappers: It took one person less than a week to write wrappers for the entire EMBOSS suite of more than a hundred applications, he said.

Augen said that the company would soon announce partnerships with “large IT vendors and some third-party software vendors,” and plans to offer wrappers for popular software packages via its partners.

This partnership strategy should give the company another advantage over its competitors, Augen said, but he admitted that the commercial software sector is not the company’s biggest threat. “Our biggest competition doesn’t come from SciTegic or Platform or any of these guys, it comes from internal IT shops ... The people who write all those scripts get very upset.”

— BT

 

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