Motivation: For the biologist, running bioinformatics analyses involves a time-consuming management of data and tools. Users need support to organize their work, retrieve parameters and reproduce their analyses. They also need to be able to combine their analytic tools using a safe data flow software mechanism. Finally, given that scientific tools can be difficult to install, it is particularly helpful for biologists to be able to use these tools through a web user interface. However, providing a web interface for a set of tools raises the problem that a single web portal cannot offer all the existing and possible services: it is the user, again, who has to cope with data copy among a number of different services. A framework enabling portal administrators to build a network of cooperating services would therefore clearly be beneficial.
Results: We have designed a system, Mobyle, to provide a flexible and usable Web environment for defining and running bioinformatics analyses. It embeds simple yet powerful data management features that allow the user to reproduce analyses and to combine tools using a hierarchical typing system. Mobyle offers invocation of services distributed over remote Mobyle servers, thus enabling a federated network of curated bioinformatics portals without the user having to learn complex concepts or to install sophisticated software. While being focused on the end user, the Mobyle system also addresses the need, for the bioinfomatician, to automate remote services execution: PlayMOBY is a companion tool that automates the publication of BioMOBY web services, using Mobyle program definitions.
Availability: The Mobyle system is distributed under the terms of the GNU GPLv2 on the project web site ( http://bioweb2.pasteur.fr/projects/mobyle/). It is already deployed on three servers: http://mobyle.pasteur.fr, http://mobyle.rpbs.univ-paris-diderot.fr and http://lipm-bioinfo.toulouse.inra.fr/Mobyle. The PlayMOBY companion is distributed under the terms of the CeCILL license, and is available at http://lipm-bioinfo.toulouse.inra.fr/biomoby/PlayMOBY/.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.