Imagine a supercomputer that can process 100 trillion operations per second. Yes, that's 100, and, yes, that's trillion with a "t." That's eight times as many calculations as the world's largest supercomputer can muster today. Pretty amazing. It's not too far on the horizon, but if only it were a reality today. Already, life-science firms are pushing the boundaries of supercomputing through research on molecular diagnostics, genetics, proteomics, medical therapies, and more. Bio-informatics, as it's known, has stepped into the spotlight almost overnight thanks, in part, to the genome-cracking discoveries of Celera Genomics Group earlier this year.
This week's cover story ("IT At The Edge Of Science"), by senior writer Aaron Ricadela, reveals that this is an area where industry--not the technology-vendor community--is driving innovation. But these firms are pushing the boundaries of supercomputers and need help dealing with scalability and management issues. Right now, many believe IT vendors are lagging behind in systems management, clustering for symmetric multiprocessing, data integration, and analysis tools that are sophisticated enough to handle their computing demands. With the right tools, these firms could focus more on research and less on managing technology resources. High-tech vendors are starting to get the hint. Many are working on impressive new technologies and are trying to build deep partnerships with bioresearch firms. Some have also established life-science divisions.
What I find so fascinating about this business is that information technology isn't being used to simply help bioresearch firms improve their business or become more competitive. It's being used to help people like you and me and our children and parents improve their health and livelihood. Now that's what I call a strategic advantage.
What's also interesting is how these tools and innovations will intersect with commercial business needs. How, for example, can cellular processing systems benefit not only pharmaceutical research but also air-traffic control and broadband video? How can data-visualization technology benefit molecular modeling as well as product design? It's going to be a fascinating industry to watch.
Those of you attending the InformationWeek Fall Conference will have the opportunity to hear some perspective from Dr. William Haseltine, chairman and CEO of Human Genome Sciences, on innovation in bio-informatics (informationweek.com/events). In the meantime, it's an industry we'll be keeping a close eye on in the pages of InformationWeek.
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