Background: Current high-throughput technologies - i.e. Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, etc. - generate huge amounts of data and their usage gets more widespread with each passing year. Complex analysis pipelines involving several computationally-intensive steps have to be applied on an increasing number of samples. Workflow Management Systems (WMSs) allow parallelization and a more efficient usage of computational power. Nevertheless, this mostly happens by assigning the available cores to a single or few samples at a time. We refer to this approach as naive parallel strategy (NPS). Here, we discuss an alternative approach, which we refer to as concurrent execution strategy (CES), which equally distributes the available processors across every sample.
Results: Theoretically, we show that the CES results, under loose conditions, in a substantial speedup, with an ideal gain range spanning from 1 to the number of samples. Practically, we tested both strategies on a Whole Exome Sequencing (WES) pipeline applied to three publicly available matched tumour-normal sample pairs of gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST). The CES achieved speedups in latency up to 2-2.4.
Conclusions: Our results hint that if resources distribution is further tailored to fit specific situations, an even greater gain in performance could be achieved. For this to be feasible, a benchmarking of the tools included in the pipeline would be necessary. It is our opinion these benchmarks should be consistently performed by the tools' developers. Finally, these results suggest that concurrent strategies might also lead to energy and cost savings by making feasible the usage of low power machine clusters.