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UC Santa Cruz, Western Digital to Test Genomic Sequencing Workflow Acceleration Technologies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The University of California, Santa Cruz and Western Digital said today that they have entered into an R&D partnership to accelerate genomic sequencing workflows with computational storage technology.

Under the multiyear deal, the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute and the university's Baskin School of Engineering will test their theory that moving computational power closer to data storage can speed up the analysis of massive genomic data sets. They will use an under-development storage architecture from San Jose, California-based Western Digital.

Specifically, Western Digital, the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, and the Baskin School of Engineering will study how to optimize the new hardware. They said they would like to determine optimal partitioning and placement of data across storage devices and how to accelerate core functions of each storage device to accelerate overall computing performance with lower power consumption than currently available commercial technology.

"Moving the compute to the data is a key strategy already being adopted at the software layer in several global genomics initiatives. With the support and close collaboration of Western Digital's team we'll be able to take this all way down to the hardware layer," Benedict Paten, director of the UC Santa Cruz Computational Genomics Lab, said in a statement.

"Our new architecture will distribute computation within a single computer system across multiple computational storage devices, each with its own storage and its own customizable computing resources," explained Robin O'Neill, Western Digital's head of emerging systems and software. "By moving the compute to the data, rather than the data to the compute, we expect to take advantage of significantly greater bandwidth access to the genomics data by the near-media compute, as well as the custom, parallel computing capabilities within each computational storage device."

Western Digital said that it would supply its Ultrastar Data60 platform to the UCSC Genomics Institute and also will invest an unspecified amount of money to fund graduate students and faculty investigators at both the Genomics Institute and the engineering school. "This collaboration represents the unification of people and ideas that will accelerate the promise of genomic data," Western Digital CTO Martin Fink said.