LabKey Frequently Asked Question

Who are you guys?
We are a group of friends who have worked together for more than a decade at Microsoft, Westside, BEA, and now LabKey. The idea behind LabKey is to apply commercial software skills to the information systems problems faced by academic researchers. We are ten strong, and intend to remain about that size. We work with a limited number of clients in order to provide excellent service and value.
What is CPAS, and what does it have to do with LabKey?
CPAS, the Computational Portal and Analysis System, is a modular, extensible platform for managing data from high-throughput scientific experiments and clinical trials over the web. CPAS manages the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Proteomics Repository, and has been selected by SCHARP, the Statistical Center for HIV / Aids Research Project for managing HIV vaccine trials for the CHAVI, the Center for HIV / Aids Vaccine Institute. LabKey engineers are the primary developers of CPAS.
What is LabKey's relationship to FHCRC?
LabKey is a for-profit partnership, 1/7 owned by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center a not-for-profit research institution located in Seattle.
Why is a LabKey a for-profit company?
We compete for software engineering talent with Microsoft, Google, and other commercial software vendors on terms dictated by that market.
How much does CPAS cost?
CPAS is free. You can download it now, including source code, from http://cpas.fhcrc.org.
If CPAS is free, how do you make money?
Our main business is extending CPAS to address new problems faced by researchers, usually by adding new modules -- stand-alone units of functionality. We also provide CPAS installation, training, and support, on-site or off.
How much do you charge for a new module?
It depends. After a free initial consultation, we provide you with an estimate of work required to meet your needs. For large, complex projects we may propose a formal requirements gathering and specification phase, at our normal rate, so that we both may better understand the scope of work. We charge by the hour for work performed, capped by our estimate.
Will you work on a fixed bid for a defined spec?
We will, but we advise against it. Why? Because the interaction between people and software is usually complex, even when the problems to be solved are fixed. Software can and should evolve as it is built and the interactions are better understood by both the users and the developers. This effect is compounded in scientific software because the problems to be solved themselves often mutate as the science improves. In short, we can give you either the software you need or the software you ask for up front. They are rarely the same.
If I use you, am I stuck with you?
No. While we endeavor to earn your trust and provide you excellent value over many years, the software is designed to be maintainable by any skilled Java developer familiar with standard web technologies. Developers with these skills work in every major city in the world.
What are your hourly rates?
Our rates are comparable with IBM Global Services or GE Medical Professional Services for for-profit clients. We charge not-for-profit clients substantially less.
How do you work with researchers on my staff?
We prefer to meet regularly with the people who will use the system, usually once per week. For complex problems, we generally start with simplest part that is important to the end users and build and ship that first. Then we iterate frequently, incorporating feedback and refining the work incrementally.
Who runs the systems once they are built?
Your information technology staff runs the systems day-to-day. This entails managing network connectivity and security, and backing up relational databases.
What kind of computers do we need?
CPAS is a Java-based web server program, running under Apache Tomcat. It can run on any system that can run Java, including Windows, Unix, Linux, Solaris, or McIntosh.
How do you work with programmers on my staff?
We can share work with your existing programmers in a variety of ways, from simply familiarizing them with the code so that they can maintain it in the future, to fully sharing feature programming responsibilities.
Who owns the software?
You own the software we build for you. You can modify it, license it, or resell it to whomever you choose, on whatever terms.
Does the software have to be open source?
Generally, yes. We require that you grant to us a non-exclusive, transferable license to the software we build for you under terms of the Apache Software License Version 2.0. In this way clients only pay for the software that is custom-built for them. The rest of the system is freely shared, lowering the cost for everyone.
Why use the Apache Software License?
The Apache License is the most broadly used, business-friendly, open source software license available. It is supported by many commercial vendors including BEA, Oracle, and IBM.
How can I contribute to CPAS development?
If you are a researcher you can download and evaluate CPAS. If you are a Java developer you can download the source and build. If you want to contribute to CPAS development financially, contact george@labkey.com. You can make charitable contributions to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Canary Fund, or your research institution of choice, and ear mark the funds for CPAS development.
How do we start?
Contact us for a free consultation.