IBM, Buffalo uni team on supercomputing for bio deal

The University at Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics has installed an IBM Corp. supercomputer built on blades and also will work with IBM researchers who will provide algorithms to aid protein pattern and correlation discovery, the company and the center announced Thursday.

Eventually, the research could led to treatments of diseases, possibly including cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS and multiple sclerosis. "The big picture is going after those diseases," said Isidore Rigoutsos, manager of bioinformatics and program discovery at IBM.

Before then, though, scientists will collaborate on research of "carefully selected (protein) sequences that we understand well," and then expand into work on groups of sequences where little is known, he said. "We would like to be able to predict functions of proteins that have not been annotated."

The new supercomputer that will handle the intensive computational work will have a peak performance of more than 1.32T flops and will consist of a cluster of 266 IBM eServer BladeCenter HS20 systems running Red Hat Advance Server 2.1 Linux. Each system will be equipped with two 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors and 1G byte of memory. Seven of IBM's xSeries 345 Intel processor-based servers will connect to 5T bytes of storage for the biological and research data.

Testing of the system is being completed and will be handed off to staff in Buffalo "imminently," said Jeff Benck, vice president of IBM's e-server blade center, who is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The center had previously used a Dell Inc. cluster and EMC Corp. storage. The IBM cluster will be three times faster, "shaving critical time off achieving tangible results in our research," said Jeffrey Skolnick, the center director, in a statement.

The center, which is part of the State University of New York system, uses high-end technologies such as supercomputing and visualization combined with genomics, proteomics and bioimaging to contribute to life sciences and health-care research.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

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