Record breaking data centre for genome sequencing opened in Norwich
27 May 2011
Amplify the low hum from your computer thousands of times and you will have some idea of the noise created by cooling a supercomputer with six terabytes of RAM. The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, has just established the largest RedHat Linux system on the planet, in a new data centre formally opened on Thursday 26th May.
The purpose-built facility will handle data created during genome sequencing and analysis. It provides a warehouse for key datasets and the facility to disseminate these nationally.
Guests to the opening were invited to don ear defenders to view the racks of computer equipment and the thick arteries of power cables that will fuel the next generation of genetic investigation.
The supercomputer provides 6 terabytes of RAM for processing - equivalent to the capability of about 200,000 first generation iPods - and 600 terabytes of fast disk storage. It will enable scientists to assemble large genomes, such as wheat, that would be extremely difficult to achieve on smaller systems. The system has already broken records for its speed of processing Java-based code.
The wheat genome represents the largest and most complex set of genetic instructions ever tackled by DNA sequencing. It is five times larger than the human genome and is actually made up of three closely related genomes.
"Bread wheat is one of the most important food crops in the world and the data centre will help us solve unanswered questions to help farmers increase yield and disease resistance," said Dr Jane Rogers, Director of TGAC.
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council which provides strategic funding to The Genome Analysis Centre, said "So many of the research challenges facing society, not least that of providing enough sustainable, affordable and nutritious food for all, will need to be addressed by the effective manipulation of biological data. As sequencing gets faster, more affordable and a more commonplace technique, this need becomes ever more urgent. This data centre, and the amazing computing power and storage capacity that it will provide, will equip TGAC to exploit the potential, and the overcome the challenges that these mountains of data present."
Such a lot of power generates heat and the centre blows with a breeze from environmentally friendly "free cool" chillers.
Local businesses and suppliers were contracted on the build, from the design consultant to supplier of IT racks. The main construction contractor was Morgan Sindall, based in Norwich.
Guests at the opening included South Norfolk Council Chairman Sue Thomson and Simon Wright, MP for Norwich South.
TGAC has been established in Norwich by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with regional economic development partners - The East of England Development Agency (EEDA), Norfolk County Council, South Norfolk Council, Norwich City Council and the Greater Norwich Development Partnership. The centre represents an investment by all the partners in the capital infrastructure of £13.5M.
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