BLAST in the Amazon Cloud

October 17, 2014

October 17, 2014 | The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has declared that its installation of BLAST in the Amazon Web Services Marketplace is "the easiest way to start an NCBI BLAST instance." NCBI first placed its BLAST+ applications in the Amazon cloud this summer, together with access to NCBI genome databases typically used with BLAST. Now, with access to this tool through the Marketplace, NCBI has decided to recommend this service to heavy BLAST users without the local compute infrastructure to install BLAST+ on their own hardware.

BLAST, or the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool, is one of the most basic and universal tools used by bioinformaticians to analyze genetic data. It is used to search for similar genic regions between samples or species — for instance, showing that a human gene newly linked to disease has a homolog in mice that could be used for preclinical research. BLAST is widely acknowledged as providing a good balance between speed and sensitivity for these searches, and is frequently used to search through large NCBI and other public databases, such as GenBank.

While NCBI allows limited BLAST searches through its own public BLAST server, demands on that server have been growing, and it cannot support large projects.