Background: Bioinformatics software for RNA-seq analysis has a high computational
requirement in terms of the number of CPUs, RAM size, and processor characteristics.
Specifically, de novo transcriptome assembly demands large computational infrastructure due to
the massive data size, and complexity of the algorithms employed. Comparative studies on the
quality of the transcriptome yielded by de novo assemblers have been previously published,
lacking, however, a hardware efficiency-oriented approach to help select the assembly hardware
platform in a cost-efficient way.
Objective: We tested the performance of two popular de novo transcriptome assemblers, Trinity
and SOAPdenovo-Trans (SDNT), in terms of cost-efficiency and quality to assess limitations, and
provided troubleshooting and guidelines to run transcriptome assemblies efficiently.
Method: We built virtual machines with different hardware characteristics (CPU number, RAM
size) in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud of the Amazon Web Services. Using simulated and
real data sets, we measured the elapsed time, cost, CPU percentage and output size of small and
large data set assemblies.
Results: For small data sets, SDNT outperformed Trinity by an order the magnitude, significantly
reducing the time duration and costs of the assembly. For large data sets, Trinity performed better
than SDNT. Both the assemblers provide good quality transcriptomes.
Conclusion: The selection of the optimal transcriptome assembler and provision of computational
resources depend on the combined effect of size and complexity of RNA-seq experiments.