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Source Code Biol Med. 2011 Mar 18;6:4. doi: 10.1186/1751-0473-6-4.

Parallel biocomputing.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Institute for Human Genetics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.



With the advent of high throughput genomics and high-resolution imaging techniques, there is a growing necessity in biology and medicine for parallel computing, and with the low cost of computing, it is now cost-effective for even small labs or individuals to build their own personal computation cluster.


Here we briefly describe how to use commodity hardware to build a low-cost, high-performance compute cluster, and provide an in-depth example and sample code for parallel execution of R jobs using MOSIX, a mature extension of the Linux kernel for parallel computing. A similar process can be used with other cluster platform software.


As a statistical genetics example, we use our cluster to run a simulated eQTL experiment. Because eQTL is computationally intensive, and is conceptually easy to parallelize, like many statistics/genetics applications, parallel execution with MOSIX gives a linear speedup in analysis time with little additional effort.


We have used MOSIX to run a wide variety of software programs in parallel with good results. The limitations and benefits of using MOSIX are discussed and compared to other platforms.

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