FRAMINGHAM (09/24/2003) - Configuring bioinformatic clusters is a labor-intensive task that often takes skilled IT staffers weeks or longer. iNquiry, a new tool from the bio-IT consulting firm The BioTeam, reduces that task to about 15 minutes, according to the company.
iNquiry lets researchers run more than 200 open-source bioinformatics applications by using a graphical interface instead of traditional command-line instructions.
iNquiry is a scalable informatics platform presenting many cluster-enabled bioinformatics applications with a consistent graphical interface for scientists. Currently, iNquiry is distributed on an Apple Computer Inc. iPod and configures an Apple Xserve cluster from scratch. Once configured, that cluster provides a complete working computational biology system that offers a graphical user interface to more than 200 commonly used bioinformatics tools, such as BLAST, HMMER, and the EMBOSS suite. Additionally, The BioTeam also bundles in some cluster management tools so administrators can monitor programs and computational resources.
Essentially, what The BioTeam has done is take its own best practices from its work deploying bioinformatic systems and rolled them into the iNquiry product. "All the pieces were there; our know-how was the quilting to make them work together," says William Van Etten, one of The BioTeam's principals. "Our goal is to make cluster building a trivial process."
The BioTeam expertise that is incorporated into the tool includes a port of Sun Microsystems' Grid Engine distributed computing software so that it runs on an Apple Xserve cluster. iNquiry also works with Platform Computing's LSF software. Additional expertise involved the porting of open-source bioinformatic applications that previously ran only under other Unix operating systems to Mac OS X. And The BioTeam used an open-source tool called Pise, developed by Catherine Letondal of the Pasteur Institute, that builds graphical interfaces to many bioinformatic applications.
At Apple's recent Worldwide Developers Conference, iNquiry received an Apple Design Award for its elegant simplicity.
Vendor: The BioTeam
Product Name: iNquiry
Availability: Now/US$4,995 for academic users and $14,995 for commercial life science customers
For more information: +1-(978) 304-1222; or www.bioteam.net