[Bioclusters] re: seeking sources

Chris Dagdigian bioclusters@bioinformatics.org
Thu, 23 May 2002 16:55:02 -0400

Hi Sam,

{cc'ing to bioclusters intentionally...}

I can give you 2 perspectives, just my opinion of course:

(1) A small business view
(2) An open source project member view

For (1) I'm one of the members of a tiny life science consulting group. 
It consists of three peopel glued together with laptops, cellphones and 
802.11b wireless.

One of the things that we love about the big companies is how shameless 
they are in pitching their own solutions over everything else. This is 
even more apparent in the consulting world where just about every 
"professional services" person out there works for a company that just 
happens to also sell their own expensive solutions and systems.

Even worse, these "solutions" often do not interoperate or play nicely 
with "solutions" from other companies. Talk to a couple of VP's of 
Bioinformatics some time and you will see how mad they are about broken 
promises and failures by "solution providers" who promise the sky and 
deliver something else.

To quote Joe Landman from the biodevelopers list "imagine if someone 
built a business process or research process around
DoubleTwist and their tools for example"...

It's also pretty funny to see the "A team" executive sales squads decend 
upon a small biotech or pharma and then flop around miserably because 
they have no clue about what the company is actually doing and what they 
need. Despite not having a clue they are quite happy to sell their 
solutions though.

This is why we started out little company. No hidden agendas and no 
vested interest (financial or otherwise) in pushing clients towards a 
certain product or technology. We are doing quite well on the business 
side and have no fear at all of the large companies. Actually the more 
shameless the large companies get with aggressive sales tactics the more 
our phone rings.

I constantly run into EMC, IBM, Sun and Compaq when out in the real 
world. In the course of my work I've probably contributed to all  of 
those companies losing large harware, software and services sales at one 
time or another because we were able to come up with something that was 
faster/better/cheaper or just a better solution for what the customer 
actually needed.

On the other side since I don't resell stuff myself I've been 
responsible for recommeding the purchase of at least several million 
dollars worth of servers/software/networking and storage gear that 
people have purchased direct from companies like IBM, Dell, Network 
Appliance, Platform Computing, etc. so it probably all works out in the 
end for everyone. This is why people at the large companies still talk 
to me. heh.

That is the last I'm going to say about my professional work since 
bioclusters is better off being non-commercial and I don't want to push 
the business side of my activities on list members. Feel free to contact 
me offline for more info if needed.

Ok..different track now:

The problem with the big hardware companies is that they want to sell 
you the world. IBM, Sun and Compaq will be happy to sell you the 
hardware that you need but they will also make an aggressive play to get 
you to use their application server framework,their database 
technologies, their enterprise storage products etc. etc. irregardless 
of how appropriate it may be.

IBM and Compaq it seems have made the most agggressive efforts in 
getting into the life sciences. Both companies have large R&D efforts 
and projects that they use for both PR and real science and both have 
hired lots of smart people.

Sun has not hired bioinformatics people aggressively but they 
historically have been great when it comes to standards efforts, 
supporting the open source projects in this field etc. Their GridEngine 
suite is getting better all the time and is seeing more and more use in 
the life sciences.

On the open source side (disclaimer: I'm a director of the Open 
Bioinformatics Foundation and a member of the bioperl project) I'd argue 
that the big companies have made little impact but that several smaller 
companies in the industry have been hugely helpful. The smaller 
companies are more likely to allow their employees to actively 
contribute code.

Sun and IBM people can be found at standards meetings and 
interoperability efforts but I don't see many of them actively 
contributing to bio-specific open source efforts. Sun has given both 
money and hardware grants to the various OBF open source projects which 
in and of itself has been very beneficial.

People who have lost jobs at failed startups are finding work at other 
startup comapanies, pharma/biotech companies or academia. I have not 
noticed any sort of real trend of people getting hired by large hardware 
companies. This could be a geographical bias given that I live in the 
Boston area where there seems to be a million and one life science 
companies within a few square miles.


> My name is Sam Jaffe and I'm a reporter working on a story about the 
> impact of companies like IBM and Sun entering into the bioinformatics 
> field for The Scientist magazine (www.the-scientist.com). I spoke with 
> J.W. Bizzaro and he recommended that I post a message on this forum. I'm 
> interested in talking to people who work in the field about this issue. 
> Are the big new entrants squeezing out the startups? Are they making 
> massive hirings? Are the people that worked for the startups that are 
> now going out of business going to work for the big guys? Are the big 
> guys adding any real value to the systems in place? Are they pushing 
> proprietary systems over open-source systems? Are they adding anything 
> to the open-source programming efforts? Would you personally go to work 
> for a Sun or an IBM? You don't have to answer all these questions, but 
> I'd be grateful for any help on any of them. Please reply to my email 
> directly (sam.jaffe@verizon.net), rather than replying to everyone. 
> Thanks for your time and help.
> Sam Jaffe
> The Scientist Magazine
> 215 242 0383

Chris Dagdigian, <dag@sonsorol.org>
Independent life science IT & research computing consulting
Office: 617-666-6454, Mobile: 617-877-5498, Fax: 425-699-0193
Work: http://BioTeam.net PGP KeyID: 83D4310E  Yahoo IM: craffi