So you want to set up a lab
Here is how I would set up a computational lab, one that could join the Worldwide ZINC network.
Requirements and assumptions
This page describes setting up a full computational pharmacology research lab. We describe the minimum setup, plus options for expansion. The entry level assumes you can spend: $20K on servers and $2K on a workstation. You'll need an acoustically insulated air conditioned room. It would help to have someone with system administration experience for 100 hours (3 weeks) for the initial set up, and then 1 day/month for maintenance.
When you have all the software and hardware, you can get a docking lab up and running at a basic level in less than a day. If you do not have all the software and hardware, it will take longer. If you've never run a molecular docking lab, allow a week to learn the basics.
Here is our recommendation of how to build a computer cluster that will work well for molecular docking and cheminformatics. This document can be used whether you already own hardware, or whether you are planning to buy new. All recommendations are the best we know as of Feb 2014. Things do change, but this advice should be ok through 2015.
About buying CPU and disk
We are currently buying CPU from Silicon Mechanics and Dell and disk from Silicon Mechanics and HP. We recommend buying two different kinds of machines in a modular fashion: head nodes to which disk enclosures may be attached and cpu nodes which contain large numbers of cores. We are currently buying enclosures holding 12 SAS disks of 4TB each for 48 TB raw for around $8000 or about 6 raw GB per dollar. Formatted RAID6 this works out to 36TB or 4.5 formatted GB per dollar. We like the HP P822 high performance RAID controller. Compare this to what we were paying just a year ago in spring 2013: 25 TB for $10,000 or 2.5 TB per dollar unformatted. An amazing development in the last 12 months.
For CPU, we like the C6145 from Dell. For around $20,000 you get 2 machines in a 2U form each with 64 cores and 256 GB memory and a pair of RAID1 formatted disks each. A single 42U rack could hold 2560 cores and still have room for a switch. Of course, this would cost you $400,000, pull 28 kW and need 5 T of cooling. Amazing density at commodity prices.
About setting up a network
$250 for a Managed 24 port GigE switch with VPN support. About $250. Will do for most circumstances. Allows you to run both private and public networks.
Operating System level
To begin, you will either need 6 computers to host the central services, or you will need a hypervisor to host 6 VMs, or some mixture of the above. We recommend the hypervisor if you can bear it and the 6 physical computers if you can afford it (space, energy, money).
We use (xxx), but any should do, including virtualbox, vmware, among many others.
We use 389, but other authentication systems will work fine, including kerberos.
Fileservers and NFS
We use XFS over NFS. We tend to hang several enclosures off a head node. We recommend SAS, which has finally come down in price, and RAID6 formatting. We tend to use enclosures that host 12 disks of 4TB each.
Portal and Security
We recommend setting up a portal and blocking all inbound access to all other computers. Use two portals at distinct geographical locations for added robustness.
- Perimeter security
Set up a database server
Add a new node to the cluster
Add new disk to the cluster
Deploy a workstation
Set up middleware for a computational drug discovery lab.
Server Application Software
Here is how to set up ZINC from scratch on a new cluster.
- create database
- install software and web interface
Using git and github
Client Application Software
Monthly maintenance tasks.