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Gene Research Sped By NZ First Computer System

Gene Research Sped By New Zealand First Computer System

AUCKLAND, June 22, 2001 - Auckland-based biotechnology firm Genesis Research is implementing an upgraded bioinformatics system based on high-performance computers from Compaq Computer New Zealand.

In the global race to identify genes with commercial applications in forestry, agriculture and human health, massive amounts of computing power and storage are needed.

Genesis compares genes with already-known DNA sequences listed on the company's own and public databases. Using its Compaq computer system, Genesis runs 20,000 searches a week which 10 years ago would have taken months. They run 1 million searches a year, and one database alone stores 11 million sequences, taking up 7Gb of disk space.

Compaq drew upon international expertise, including its international High Performance Technical Computing team who provided similar technology for Celera Genomics - the US firm who won the race to decode the complete human genome in June 2000.

Mike Hill, Compaq's Director, Enterprise Solutions and Services Group, says it demonstrates how Compaq uses its international expertise to create leading-edge solutions for New Zealand businesses. "Drawing on our international capabilities allowed us to future-proof and anticipate Genesis' needs."

The system includes three high-performance ES40 Alpha servers, which have been clustered to effectively operate as one machine and combine their processing power. This three-way clustered server arrangement, while used overseas, is the first of its kind in New Zealand. Each server has four EV6/7 667MHz CPUs and 8GB of physical memory.

Seamlessly combining the servers allows data files to be shared, enabling simultaneous multiple searches and future growth. "One of the critical aspects of the proposed solution was that it provided Genesis with a competitive advantage in an already crowded market segment. The power, speed and reliability of the configured solution provides Genesis with the confidence they require to operate in a very competitive global market.

"The overall solution was built on existing Compaq platforms thereby protecting the investment that Genesis had made already made in Compaq."

The system includes two StorageWorks Storage Area Networks (SANs) with over a terabyte of storage. Fibre channel switches are used to remove a single point of failure. Genesis also has a 1Mb bandwidth Internet connection, allowing fast access to international genomic databases.

The system replaces six smaller AlphaServer DS10 systems.

In addition to the servers and storage which power Genesis' database searches, Genesis also operates two "PC farms" of 50 and 100 desktop PCs working together. These split the task of searching databases amongst them, allowing quick searches with less expensive hardware.

The solution has been designed to future-proof Genesis' business by allowing for the addition of future servers, storage networks, users and financing arrangements including "technology refresh" options.

Reliability, growth and support were key issues for Genesis.

"Computing is an essential component of our services and needs to be world class to compete in the fast-moving world of genomics," says Genesis Head of Corporate Services Stephen Hall.

"We need state-of-the-art technology that is scalable to meet our rapidly growing databases and can be supported in New Zealand. Rather than technology that is 'bleeding edge', we needed proven technology with local expertise and support.

"We also need to be able to add to the investment, rather than have to replace it as it struggles with the increasing workload," he says.

"The higher the performance the better. The entire bio-informatics market is a race. The winners are the first to come up with the solution. The rewards for second place are significantly diminished."

Mike Hill says it is also an example of Compaq's growing consulting and support services, which have been provided to Genesis in conjunction with Datacom. The project also reflects Compaq's plans to play a major role in developing the capabilities of the life sciences industry in New Zealand.

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