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North Carolina to Build BioGrid Compute Network for Life Science Research

NEW YORK, Nov. 14 - MCNC, IBM, and more than 60 organizations in the North Carolina Genomics and Bioinformatics Consortium will collaborate to develop the first computer grid to be wholly devoted to life sciences research, MCNC and IBM said on Wednesday.


IBM and MCNC, a non-profit IT and telecommunication services corporation, will work with other hardware vendors and NCGBC members to build the North Carolina Bioinformatics Grid, which will enable thousands of life sciences researchers in North Carolina to share computing power, data storage, networking resources, and data.


NCGBC has more than 60 member organizations from the public and private sector, including the University of North Carolina system, Duke University, GlaxoSmithKline, the Research Triangle Institute, SAS Institute, Biogen, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.


Thomas Dunning, vice president of high-performance computing and communications at MCNC, told GenomeWeb that the NC BioGrid had its roots in the formation of the NCGBC.


"The North Carolina bioresearch community is very vibrant, but very distributed," Dunning said. As MCNC was considering options for the consortium's information technology infrastructure, Dunning said grid technology soon made sense as "the best way to tie all these resources and technology together."


MCNC is supporting the startup funding for the three-year project through its endowment fund. Other collaborators are expected to contribute funding as the project progresses, Dunning said.


The NC BioGrid will draw heavily on the North Carolina Supercomputing Center and the North Carolina Research and Education Network, which are both operated by MCNC. The BioGrid infrastructure will also include IBM's new teraflop-scale eServer p690, and a storage area network based on IBM's "Shark" Enterprise Storage Server and Tivoli Storage Manager. The Shark configuration is expected to provide a storage capacity of more than a petabyte of data.

While the high-energy physics research community has employed grid technology for some years, the NC BioGrid is the first application of the approach to life sciences research. Steven Beckhardt, chief architect of IBM Life Sciences, said that the NC BioGrid is the first attempt to "commoditize the vision of the grid" and make it available for a broad range of applications.


Beckhardt said the NC BioGrid is expected to be only the first in a nationwide network of grids that will "be linked together much like the Internet today is a network of networks."

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