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Concept: Cloud computing


As advances in life sciences and information technology bring profound influences on bioinformatics due to its interdisciplinary nature, bioinformatics is experiencing a new leap-forward from in-house computing infrastructure into utility-supplied cloud computing delivered over the Internet, in order to handle the vast quantities of biological data generated by high-throughput experimental technologies. Albeit relatively new, cloud computing promises to address big data storage and analysis issues in the bioinformatics field. Here we review extant cloud-based services in bioinformatics, classify them into Data as a Service (DaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and present our perspectives on the adoption of cloud computing in bioinformatics.ReviewersThis article was reviewed by Frank Eisenhaber, Igor Zhulin, and Sandor Pongor.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Life, Computer, Internet, Cloud computing, Everything as a service, Information technology


BACKGROUND: Cloud computing provides an infrastructure that facilitates large scale computational analysis in a scalable, democratized fashion, However, in this context it is difficult to ensure sharing of an analysis environment and associated data in a scalable and precisely reproducible way. RESULTS: CloudMan ( enables individual researchers to easily deploy, customize, and share their entire cloud analysis environment, including data, tools, and configurations. CONCLUSIONS: With the enabled customization and sharing of instances, CloudMan can be used as a platform for collaboration. The presented solution improves accessibility of cloud resources, tools, and data to the level of an individual researcher and contributes toward reproducibility and transparency of research solutions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Research, Computer, Solution, Reproducibility, Cloud computing, Utility computing, Tool


Bioinformatics is challenged by the fact that traditional analysis tools have difficulty in processing large-scale data from high-throughput sequencing. The open source Apache Hadoop project, which adopts the MapReduce framework and a distributed file system, has recently given bioinformatics researchers an opportunity to achieve scalable, efficient and reliable computing performance on Linux clusters and on cloud computing services. In this article, we present MapReduce frame-based applications that can be employed in the next-generation sequencing and other biological domains. In addition, we discuss the challenges faced by this field as well as the future works on parallel computing in bioinformatics.

Concepts: Future, Hadoop, Cloud computing, Grid computing, Linux, Google, File system, MapReduce


The rapidly growing volume of multimodal electrophysiological signal data is playing a critical role in patient care and clinical research across multiple disease domains, such as epilepsy and sleep medicine. To facilitate secondary use of these data, there is an urgent need to develop novel algorithms and informatics approaches using new cloud computing technologies as well as ontologies for collaborative multicenter studies.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Clinical trial, Patient, Illness, Computer, Computer science, Cloud computing


Advances in cloud computing have greatly motivated data owners to outsource their huge amount of personal multimedia data and/or computationally expensive tasks onto the cloud by leveraging its abundant resources for cost saving and flexibility. Despite the tremendous benefits, the outsourced multimedia data and its originated applications may reveal the data owner’s private information, such as the personal identity, locations or even financial profiles. This observation has recently aroused new research interest on privacy-preserving computations over outsourced multimedia data. In this paper, we propose an effective and practical privacy-preserving computation outsourcing protocol for the prevailing scale-invariant feature transform (SIFT) over massive encrypted image data. We first show that previous solutions to this problem have either efficiency/security or practicality issues, and none can well preserve the important characteristics of the original SIFT in terms of distinctiveness and robustness. We then present a new scheme design that achieves efficiency and security requirements simultaneously with the preservation of its key characteristics, by randomly splitting the original image data, designing two novel efficient protocols for secure multiplication and comparison, and carefully distributing the feature extraction computations onto two independent cloud servers. We both carefully analyze and extensively evaluate the security and effectiveness of our design. The results show that our solution is practically secure, outperforms the state-of-theart, and performs comparably to the original SIFT in terms of various characteristics, including rotation invariance, image scale invariance, robust matching across affine distortion, addition of noise and change in 3D viewpoint and illumination.

Concepts: Computer, Computation, Computer science, Extraction, Computing, Cloud computing, Service level agreement, Outsourcing


The highly portable Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencer has enabled new applications of genome sequencing directly in the field. However, the MinION currently relies on a cloud computing platform, Metrichor (, for translating locally generated sequencing data into basecalls.

Concepts: DNA, Computer, Computer program, Java, Open source, Cloud computing, Nanopore, Nanopore sequencing


Analytics-as-a-service (AaaS) is one of the latest provisions emerging from the cloud services family. Utilizing this paradigm of computing in health informatics will benefit patients, care providers, and governments significantly. This work is a novel approach to realize health analytics as services in critical care units in particular.

Concepts: Health care, Computer science, Medical informatics, Cloud computing


Cloud computing has revolutionized the development and operations of hardware and software across diverse technological arenas, yet academic biomedical research has lagged behind despite the numerous and weighty advantages that cloud computing offers. Biomedical researchers who embrace cloud computing can reap rewards in cost reduction, decreased development and maintenance workload, increased reproducibility, ease of sharing data and software, enhanced security, horizontal and vertical scalability, high availability, a thriving technology partner ecosystem, and much more. Despite these advantages that cloud-based workflows offer, the majority of scientific software developed in academia does not utilize cloud computing and must be migrated to the cloud by the user. In this article, we present 11 quick tips for architecting biomedical informatics workflows on compute clouds, distilling knowledge gained from experience developing, operating, maintaining, and distributing software and virtualized appliances on the world’s largest cloud. Researchers who follow these tips stand to benefit immediately by migrating their workflows to cloud computing and embracing the paradigm of abstraction.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Computer, Medical research, Computer science, Microsoft, Computer software, Cloud computing


Electronic health records are being adopted at a rapid rate due to increased funding from the US federal government. Health data provide the opportunity to identify possible improvements in health care delivery by applying data mining and statistical methods to the data and will also enable a wide variety of new applications that will be meaningful to patients and medical professionals. Researchers are often granted access to health care data to assist in the data mining process, but HIPAA regulations mandate comprehensive safeguards to protect the data. Often universities (and presumably other research organizations) have an enterprise information technology infrastructure and a research infrastructure. Unfortunately, both of these infrastructures are generally not appropriate for sensitive research data such as HIPAA, as they require special accommodations on the part of the enterprise information technology (or increased security on the part of the research computing environment). Cloud computing, which is a concept that allows organizations to build complex infrastructures on leased resources, is rapidly evolving to the point that it is possible to build sophisticated network architectures with advanced security capabilities. We present a prototype infrastructure in Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud to allow researchers and practitioners to utilize the data in a HIPAA-compliant environment.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Federal government of the United States, Health science, Health informatics, Cloud computing, Public services


The method of phylogenetic ancestral sequence reconstruction is a powerful approach for studying evolutionary relationships among protein sequence, structure, and function. In particular, this approach allows investigators to (1) reconstruct and “resurrect” (that is, synthesize in vivo or in vitro) extinct proteins to study how they differ from modern proteins, (2) identify key amino acid changes that, over evolutionary timescales, have altered the function of the protein, and (3) order historical events in the evolution of protein function. Widespread use of this approach has been slow among molecular biologists, in part because the methods require significant computational expertise. Here we present PhyloBot, a web-based software tool that makes ancestral sequence reconstruction easy. Designed for non-experts, it integrates all the necessary software into a single user interface. Additionally, PhyloBot provides interactive tools to explore evolutionary trajectories between ancestors, enabling the rapid generation of hypotheses that can be tested using genetic or biochemical approaches. Early versions of this software were used in previous studies to discover genetic mechanisms underlying the functions of diverse protein families, including V-ATPase ion pumps, DNA-binding transcription regulators, and serine/threonine protein kinases. PhyloBot runs in a web browser, and is available at the following URL: The software is implemented in Python using the Django web framework, and runs on elastic cloud computing resources from Amazon Web Services. Users can create and submit jobs on our free server (at the URL listed above), or use our open-source code to launch their own PhyloBot server.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Evolution, Amino acid, Molecular biology, Phylogenetic tree, Cloud computing