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Open Access Research

Accessing and distributing EMBL data using CORBA (common object request broker architecture)

Lichun Wang*, Patricia Rodriguez-Tomé, Nicole Redaschi, Phil McNeil, Alan Robinson and Philip Lijnzaad

Author Affiliations

EMBL Outstation - Hinxton, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge CB10 1SD, UK

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Genome Biology 2000, 1:research0010-research0010.10  doi:10.1186/gb-2000-1-5-research0010

Published: 6 November 2000

Abstract

Background

The EMBL Nucleotide Sequence Database is a comprehensive database of DNA and RNA sequences and related information traditionally made available in flat-file format. Queries through tools such as SRS (Sequence Retrieval System) also return data in flat-file format. Flat files have a number of shortcomings, however, and the resources therefore currently lack a flexible environment to meet individual researchers' needs. The Object Management Group's common object request broker architecture (CORBA) is an industry standard that provides platform-independent programming interfaces and models for portable distributed object-oriented computing applications. Its independence from programming languages, computing platforms and network protocols makes it attractive for developing new applications for querying and distributing biological data.

Results

A CORBA infrastructure developed by EMBL-EBI provides an efficient means of accessing and distributing EMBL data. The EMBL object model is defined such that it provides a basis for specifying interfaces in interface definition language (IDL) and thus for developing the CORBA servers. The mapping from the object model to the relational schema in the underlying Oracle database uses the facilities provided by PersistenceTM, an object/relational tool. The techniques of developing loaders and 'live object caching' with persistent objects achieve a smart live object cache where objects are created on demand. The objects are managed by an evictor pattern mechanism.

Conclusions

The CORBA interfaces to the EMBL database address some of the problems of traditional flat-file formats and provide an efficient means for accessing and distributing EMBL data. CORBA also provides a flexible environment for users to develop their applications by building clients to our CORBA servers, which can be integrated into existing systems.