Making a bid for grid

Altair and SciTegic team up to improve efficiencies in drug discovery work.

Jeffrey Bouley
TROY, Mich.—In November, Altair Engineering became the first grid computing tech­nology provider to join the independent software ven­dor (ISV) partner program of SciTegic, a developer of informatics software for the pharmaceutical and biotech­nology industries that pro­vides a technology approach called data pipelining to pro­cess drug discovery data.
 
In this collaboration with SciTegic, a wholly owned subsidiary of Accelrys, Altair is providing software com­ponents that provide com­patibility between SciTegic's Pipeline Pilot product and Altair's PBS Professional grid software, so that users of Pipeline Pilot can solve complex research problems more quickly and efficiently by distributing their com­putational workload across a grid managed by PBS Professional.
 
"As deployments of Pipeline Pilot within research organizations have grown significantly, the efficient distribu­tion and management of computa­tionally intensive jobs submitted by individual users has turned out to be critical," says Mathew Hahn, vice president of platform strategy and technologies at Accelrys. The PBS Professional package, he says, has the ability to efficiently man­age the computational workloads of Pipeline Pilots users.
 
Four of the top ten pharmas are joint customers of the com­panies, according to Piush Patel, who manages Altair's relations with ISVs and original equipment manufacturers, and these compa­nies, as well as smaller pharmas, are enjoying the benefits of bet­ter access to shared computing resources because of the new com­patibility between Pipeline Pilot and PBS Professional.
 
In addition to being a boon for the Pipeline Pilot and PBS Professional products, this sup­port for the products' compatibility is a potential validation of the use of grid computing technology in general. Last year, the 451 Group, a New York-based technology indus­try analyst firm, found that while some leading pharmaceutical companies have established sig­nificant grid deployments for drug discovery, a majority of users in the pharma sector remain uncon­vinced about the broader value of grid computing. A need for high-performance computing makes the pharmaceutical sector a natural adopter of grid computing, accord­ing to The 451 Group, but com­pared with other industries, such as financial services, the pharmas remain somewhat behind in terms of broad enterprise deployments of grids.
 
"PBS Professional is enterprise-ready grid software that allows you to aggregate computer resources across your company into a sin­gle virtual pool and assign jobs without having to worry about details of how to allocate computer resources," Patel says. Typically, he says, users of Pipeline Pilot have to operate on a first in-first out kind of scheduling, which is not as efficient when multiple users have intense data processing needs.
 
Historically, Altair customers were in the manufacturing verti­cals, as well as government and academia. But over the past year it increased its focus on the life sciences sector, Patel says. This collaboration is a big boost in that regard, and it is just the beginning of Altair and SciTegic's relation­ship, notes Adam Diaz, an applica­tion engineer for Altair.
 
"The long-term desire is to not just have the two products be com­patible but to do a more full inte­gration of them and create a fuller monitoring capability for jobs, among other things," Diaz says. He adds that Altair is working with other ISVs as well to create additional synergies between PBS Professional and life sciences soft­ware products.

Jeffrey Bouley

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