|Service and solution:||IT Service Automation|
Turning months into minutes for
science research pioneers
The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge
has strengthened its position as a leading force in life sciences,
thanks to a high-performance cluster of 64 IBM servers, designed
and commissioned by Logicalis. The new system represents
exceptional price/performance and is backed by support from
Logicalis, experts in providing powerful solutions to academic
The department (http://www.bioc.cam.ac.uk/) has
grown to become one of the largest in Cambridge, with around 400
research and support staff. Led by eminent scientist Professor Sir
Tom Blundell, the department has an internationally-competitive
This has attracted many outstanding independent research
fellows, together with funding from the Wellcome Trust, British
Heart Foundation, BBSRC and MRC, plus project collaborations with
enterprises such as GlaxoSmithKline and Phizer.
With its advanced facilities, the department is able to research
in a range of biological processes from molecular enzymology and
cell signalling, to molecular microbiology, plant molecular
biology, cancer biochemistry and cardiovascular biology. Its
science discoveries have quickly found their way into many aspects
of medical, agricultural and environmental research.
Having sufficient computing power has been vital to the
department's research. In particular, the need for a powerful new
solution became a high priority for teams working in
Crystallography - the study of atomic and molecular structure - and
Bioinformatics, a single discipline often related to genomics
research that combines biology, computer science and IT.
In both these areas, a large amount of complex data must be
processed. However, these teams found that the existing system
could take up to three months to complete results.
The specification for a large, new computational server farm was
drawn up by the department and advertised through the European
Journal tendering process. The contract was awarded to Logicalis, a
leading IBM Premier Business Partner with a strong track record in
the academic world.
"Logicalis' price was extremely competitive and we knew the IBM
technology was robust," explains Dr David Burke, of the Department
of Biochemistry. "We also recognised Logicalis' experience in this
area. They understood our objectives and knew the best way to
Logicalis delivered a solution that provided enormous computing
power. Sixty-four IBM 335 xSeries servers with dual Intel Xeon
processors were configured as a CSM Cluster with Cisco switches,
together with management and storage nodes. In addition, an IBM
FAStT .bre disk provided 3TB of storage space, using SuSE Linux and
pbsPRO. Finding a dedicated space for the new system was a
But Logicalis helped the department find the best location - and
then optimise the environment.
The improved performance was felt immediately. "The new system
has led to major time-savings and better quality work for the 50-80
researchers that use its power every day," says Dr Burke. "Instead
of taking one month or three months, jobs can now be turned around
in just one day. The same task can be repeated 100 times, leading
to much better data and more valid results. The additional power is
also enabling us to carry out research at a deeper level."
Improved reliability is another benefit. The granular design has
helped maintain service levels of the overall cluster. The system
has protection for its main nodes - and will keep operating, even
in the event of a power outage. And should some of the nodes
actually fail, then a drop in performance is barely noticeable
because of the excellent redundancy.
The Department of Biochemistry has also valued the approach
taken by Logicalis and the subsequent support provided for the
system. "Logicalis have been friendly, professional and
knowledgeable," says Dr Burke. "It's clear that they are experts in
this area of high-performance computing."
"The cluster transformed the research we could do," adds Sir Tom
Blundell. "It allowed us to predict, determine and refine the large
structures of multiprotein systems that are central to cell
regulation and are targets for the discovery of new medicines."
The Bottom Line
Researchers in Crystallography and Bioinformatics at the
University of Cambridge can now enjoy 'same day' results for their
complex computing challenges.
An IBM clustered solution, designed, delivered and supported by
Logicalis, has boosted performance and reliability for the
department's worldclass researchers.
Logicalis has underlined its reputation as a leading provider of
high performance solutions in the UK academic marketplace.
"Logicalis' price was extremely competitive and we knew the IBM technology was robust. We also recognised Logicalis' experience in this area. They understood our objectives and knew the best way to achieve success."
Dr David Burke, of the Department of Biochemistry