OPEN PeerJ | 28 Jun 2017
WC Yim and JC Cushman
Bioinformatics is currently faced with very large-scale data sets that lead to computational jobs, especially sequence similarity searches, that can take absurdly long times to run. For example, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST and BLAST+) suite, which is by far the most widely used tool for rapid similarity searching among nucleic acid or amino acid sequences, is highly central processing unit (CPU) intensive. While the BLAST suite of programs perform searches very rapidly, they have the potential to be accelerated. In recent years, distributed computing environments have become more widely accessible and used due to the increasing availability of high-performance computing (HPC) systems. Therefore, simple solutions for data parallelization are needed to expedite BLAST and other sequence analysis tools. However, existing software for parallel sequence similarity searches often requires extensive computational experience and skill on the part of the user. In order to accelerate BLAST and other sequence analysis tools, Divide and Conquer BLAST (DCBLAST) was developed to perform NCBI BLAST searches within a cluster, grid, or HPC environment by using a query sequence distribution approach. Scaling from one (1) to 256 CPU cores resulted in significant improvements in processing speed. Thus, DCBLAST dramatically accelerates the execution of BLAST searches using a simple, accessible, robust, and parallel approach. DCBLAST works across multiple nodes automatically and it overcomes the speed limitation of single-node BLAST programs. DCBLAST can be used on any HPC system, can take advantage of hundreds of nodes, and has no output limitations. This freely available tool simplifies distributed computation pipelines to facilitate the rapid discovery of sequence similarities between very large data sets.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com