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Evol Bioinform Online. 2010 Dec 22;6:197-203. doi: 10.4137/EBO.S6259.

Cost-effective cloud computing: a case study using the comparative genomics tool, roundup.

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Center for Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.



Comparative genomics resources, such as ortholog detection tools and repositories are rapidly increasing in scale and complexity. Cloud computing is an emerging technological paradigm that enables researchers to dynamically build a dedicated virtual cluster and may represent a valuable alternative for large computational tools in bioinformatics. In the present manuscript, we optimize the computation of a large-scale comparative genomics resource-Roundup-using cloud computing, describe the proper operating principles required to achieve computational efficiency on the cloud, and detail important procedures for improving cost-effectiveness to ensure maximal computation at minimal costs.


Utilizing the comparative genomics tool, Roundup, as a case study, we computed orthologs among 902 fully sequenced genomes on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. For managing the ortholog processes, we designed a strategy to deploy the web service, Elastic MapReduce, and maximize the use of the cloud while simultaneously minimizing costs. Specifically, we created a model to estimate cloud runtime based on the size and complexity of the genomes being compared that determines in advance the optimal order of the jobs to be submitted.


We computed orthologous relationships for 245,323 genome-to-genome comparisons on Amazon's computing cloud, a computation that required just over 200 hours and cost $8,000 USD, at least 40% less than expected under a strategy in which genome comparisons were submitted to the cloud randomly with respect to runtime. Our cost savings projections were based on a model that not only demonstrates the optimal strategy for deploying RSD to the cloud, but also finds the optimal cluster size to minimize waste and maximize usage. Our cost-reduction model is readily adaptable for other comparative genomics tools and potentially of significant benefit to labs seeking to take advantage of the cloud as an alternative to local computing infrastructure.


Amazon; Roundup; cloud computing; comparative genomics; elastic computing cloud; high performance computing; orthologs

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