Press Release

Sun Microsystems Selectes University of Calgary as Sun Center of Excellence for Visual Genomics

By SpaceRef Editor
February 28, 2002
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Strategic Relationship with University of Calgary to focus on research and development of 3D genome modeling and analysis

Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc. celebrated the official opening of the Sun[TM] Center of Excellence (COE) for Visual Genomics at the University of Calgary (U of C). This new Sun COE joins a worldwide network of academic institutions developing advanced technology in computational biology. The U of C is one of the leading bioinformatics research centers in Canada. Bioinformatics includes the study of genomics and post-genomics data by computation, visualization, and 3D modeling.

A unique feature of the center headed by Dr. Christoph Sensen, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the U of C Faculty of Medicine, is the ability to create 3D models of biological systems (e.g., genomes, organs, cancer cells ) using a Java 3D[TM] API-enabled Sun Fire[TM] 6800 server with a CAVE® (CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment) walk-in virtual room often likened to Star Trek’s Holodeck®.

The complex bioinformatics research to be conducted at the COE will utilize four Sun Expert3D Graphics Accelerators on the Sun Fire 6800 server. The results will be displayed in the 8′ x 8′ CAVE system from Fakespace Systems of Kitchener, Ontario.

The Sun Center of Excellence for Visual Genomics represents the first deployment of the Sun Expert3D Graphics on the Sun Fire 6800 Midframe server and the first use of Sun with Fakespace Systems CAVE display equipment.

“The Sun Center of Excellence at the University of Calgary is a showcase of key components of Sun’s integrated, collaborative visualization solutions. Together with Visualization partners, like Fakespace Systems, Sun is addressing the emerging immersive, collaborative visualization requirements of not only researchers in the field of genomics, but also seismic interpreters in the oil and gas industry, as well as designers in the automotive and aerospace industries,” said Robbie Turner, Vice-President of Client and Technical Market Products, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

“We welcome this valuable relationship with Sun Microsystems,” remarked Dr. Sensen. “We chose Sun over the competition because of its generous contribution to this project, the excellent technical support Sun provides, but most importantly, the entire Sun Fire 6800 system is the best technology available. ”

“This is the first installation of its kind outside of Sun Laboratories in California and today, the only Java 3D API-enabled virtual reality bioinformatics research facility in the world,” he continued. “It allows U of C to take a global leadership role in the emerging field of bioinformatics. It will provide training and research facilities, job opportunities and the potential for spin-off companies in Canada.”

In addition to the 20 CPU Sun Fire 6800 server running on the Solaris[TM] 8 Operating Environment equipped with 20 Gigabytes of main memory, the COE hosts five terabytes of Sun StorEdge[TM] T3 RAID 5 disk arrays, a Sun StorEdge L700 20 terabyte DLT tape library and an additional five terabyte Sun StorEdge L180 DLT tape library. Sun Ray[TM] thin clients are used by students,and U of C researchers to access software and online resources. The system is linked by Alberta’s fiber-optics based SuperNet to a Sun Enterprise[TM] 450 server at the University of Alberta and a Sun Fire 280 server at the University of Lethbridge.

Dr. Christoph Sensen, co-founder of the Canadian Bioinformatics Resource (CBR), and one of Canada’s leading bioinformaticians, was recruited by the University of Calgary for his bioinformatics expertise a year ago and will direct the project.

Sun Microsystems made an in-kind donation of more than $1 million towards the project. Federal and provincial governments contributed more than $4 million toward the $6 million facility and will also provide funding for initial staffing. As a partner of Campus Alberta, the U of C facility will collaborate with the University of Edmonton, the University of Lethbridge, and the Canadian Bioinformatics Informatics Resource, several high-tech companies (biotechnology and oil exploration) in Alberta and other public sector sponsors to conduct genomics research.

Sun’s COE program promotes collaboration to help build new technologies and communities that advance academic research. In addition to the University of Calgary, Sun has established COEs in computational biology at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, the Beijing Genomics Institute, and the Ohio Supercomputer Center/Children’s Medical Center of Cincinnati. In June 2001, the University of Alberta was selected as the first Sun Center of Excellence for E-Learning.

Sun Microsystems in Education

Sun is a leading provider of open network computing solutions to colleges and universities around the world, powering academic, research and high performance computing systems, campus administration, digital libraries and student instructions systems. In addition, Sun is committed to connecting the world’s students to the Internet, beginning with primary and secondary schools and extending to all levels of higher education. For more information:

About Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc.

Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Sun Microsystems, Inc., is headquartered in Markham, Ontario, with branch offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. Sun products and services are also available through independent sales offices in St. John’s, Saint John, Halifax, Quebec City, Calgary, Montreal, London, Toronto, Kingston, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver, as well as through iForceSM System Providers across Canada. For more information, visit

About Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Since its inception in 1982, a singular vision – The Network Is The Computer[TM] – has propelled Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) to its position as a leading provider of industrial-strength hardware, software and services that power the Internet and allow companies worldwide to take their businesses to the nth. Sun can be found in more than 170 countries and on the World Wide Web at

Sun, Sun Microsystems, the Sun logo, Sun Fire, Sun Enterprise, Sun Ray, Sun StorEdge, Solaris, Java, Java 3D, iForce and The Network Is The Computer are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sun Microystems, Inc. in the United States and other countries.

CAVE is a registered trademark of the University of Illinios at Chicago’s Board of Trustees and is licensed exclusively to Fakespace Systems Inc. Holodeck is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures.

SpaceRef staff editor.