GET 2010: Isilon and the Future of Genomics

Recently, a historic event took place in Boston, hosted by Dr. George Church and his Personal Genome Project. The Genomes Environments Traits (GET) Conference brought together every person who has had their full genome mapped – less than 20 people in total – to share a stage and discuss the impact of genomics research on the future human medicine, health, culture and society as a whole.

Needless to say, this event attracted a number of interested journalists. One among them, Beth Pariseau of SearchStorage, posted this article highlighting the data management challenges and storage growth in the field of genomic research. Beth highlighted conversations from several bioinformatics institutions – the Broad Institute (a joint venture between MIT and Harvard), Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Stanford University’s Quake Lab, as well as Illumina (the leading manufacturer of DNA sequencing devices and genomic services). All the organizations detailed not only the data storage growth and management challenges of genomic research, but also the continuing evolution in this rapidly changing environment.

There is, of course, one thing all the aforementioned organizations share in common – Isilon scale-out NAS is their primary storage architecture.

Isilon’s ability to scale from a few terabytes to tens of petabytes – all within a single file system – provides a distinct advantage to genomic research organizations, which are usually data-heavy but IT light, with few full-time IT staff available to manage massive storage systems. Add to this the fact Isilon IQ can scale a single volume non-disruptively via NFS/CIFS connectivity, eliminating the complexity and high operating costs associated with traditional storage architectures, and it’s clear why so many genomics organizations are using Isilon to power their research. With Isilon IQ and OneFS® operating system, users can cost-effectively accelerate meta-data, optimize concurrent I/O workflows (used by high performance computing) and single stream workflows (used for binary sequence data), and maintain high data availability – enabling genomics organizations to spend their time and resources on science, not on storage.

Along with GET, Isilon recently attended Bio-IT World, where our CTO Paul Rutherford spoke on the evolution of cloud computing, its pros and cons, and its potential impact for life sciences organizations. Later that evening at a partner event with Cambridge Computers, one of my Isilon colleagues introduced himself to a gentleman who had walked up to his table:

“Hi, I’m from Isilon. We’re a data storage company,” my colleague said.

The gentleman laughed in reply, “That’s like saying: Hi, I’m from Microsoft. We’re a software company.” The study of genomics holds the potential to usher in an era of truly personalized medicine, which would enable individual treatments that could improve not only the state of healthcare, but possibly the quality of life for millions, if not billions, of people. Here at Isilon, we’re proud to be the storage architecture helping power this groundbreaking research.

About the Author: Nick Kirsch