4 min readThe Beginning of Pay Per Use Services for Bioinformatics Software?

As I approach my thirtieth year of life I look back with fond memories of weekends spent round a friends house playing our way through the bunch of games rented from the local video store. If my friends suggestion of a fun weekend had been along the lines of “fancy coming over to use some software I have leased for defined amount of time for a specific unit cost” I would probably have gone to play football with someone else.

As irrelevant as it may seem, my (possibly) misspent youth does well to draw our attention to the fact that pay per use services (PPU) for software have been around for years. This is perhaps best supported by the idea of bulk licensing of software, where companies purchase one copy of a software and then pay for a particular number of user licenses. It is not quite PPU but is a variant of and has existed for many years.

Additionally, over recent years we have seen an increasing number of major IT services companies such as Sun, IBM and HP extend this to offer access to data storage and processing power as well as just software. Sun for example, is now offering the Sun Grid Compute Utility at the cost of US$1 / CPU / hour.

So while we have seen, for some time now, forms of PPU in game rental, bulk licensing and more recently for storage and processing facilities, we have seen little evidence of this structure – IT as a service – PPU existing for bioinformatics applications or indeed life science applications on a whole. Until now that is. Equinox Pharma has just announced the launch of equinoxppu.com, a new web portal that enables researchers worldwide to access Equinox bioinformatics software on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. Possibly the first example anywhere of PPU software for bioinformatics.

To me this is a seemingly odd situation. For an industry composed of many highly specialized but often small companies and research groups, access to bioinformatics IT services through PPU is fiscally good sense – avoiding the large upfront costs involved in setting up in-house systems that many smaller organizations will find hard to justify.

That said, the purpose of this article is not to discuss the reasons why it has taken such a long time to reach a position of PPU for bioinformatics but to look at this new model offered by Equinox and see how it and future releases like it can be of benefit to the life science industry.

The first product to be made available as PPU through Equinox’s new portal is the company’s Phyre homology modelling and fold-recognition software, a highly functional piece of software which has, when distributed in this way, a number of advantages over a conventional licensing route.


Results Screen From The Phyre Homology Modeling And Fold-Recognition Software. Image courtesy of Equinox

Bioinformatics Software, equinox pharma, equinoxppu.com, Pay Per Use, PPU


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