Cloud Data and Software Resources

The UCSC Genome Browser aims to support researchers operating in the cloud. Topics such as data access on the cloud, including details about the API and Amazon s3://genome-browser bucket, software installations for cloud computing, and references to helpful tools are discussed on this page.


Cloud Data

Cloud Software

Helpful Tools

What is the Amazon s3://genome-browser bucket?

S3 stands for Simple Storage Service, and it is the name for cloud storage in Amazon Web Services (AWS). The data available through S3 is essentially stored in a folder called a bucket, and files are called objects. The s3://genome-browser bucket is a copy of the main data available on our UCSC Genome Browser Download website:

By placing our Download server files in an S3 bucket, developers working in the cloud can more easily integrate with UCSC data. You can learn more about how S3-object-based storage works, and its advantages of being accessible anywhere across the world with low latency and high durability by reviewing Amazon's S3 documentation.

What specific files are in the s3://genome-browser bucket?

The data mirrors our UCSC Genome Browser Download website's main rsync directories:

UCSC Human Golden Path Downloads             s3://genome-browser/goldenPath
UCSC Human Genome Browser Gbdb Data Files    s3://genome-browser/gbdb
UCSC Human Genome Raw Mysql Tables           s3://genome-browser/mysql
UCSC Human Genome Web Site CGI Binaries      s3://genome-browser/cgi-bin
UCSC Human Genome Web Site Htdocs            s3://genome-browser/htdocs

How can one get data from the s3://genome-browser bucket?

Amazon provides an AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) which includes options such as sync. Here is an example to download an AWS bucket with CLI: aws s3 sync s3://bucket-name .

The data is also available via http at where files can be accessed.


What is the REST API?

The UCSC Genome Browser has a REST API for the programmatic extraction of data. REST is an acronym for REpresentational State Transfer and API stands for Application Programming Interface, read more on the help page:

The REST API returns data in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format, which can easily be sent between computers, and used by many different programming languages.

Data can be accessed with this URL: By adding different endpoint functions such as /list/ or /getData/ specific results can be obtained.


    wget -O- ''
    wget -O- ';chrom=chrM;start=4321;end=5678'

What kind of data can you get from the REST API?

With different endpoint functions such as /list/ or /getData/ URLs can be constructed to pull specific results.

Endpoint functionRequiredOptional
/list/tracksgenome or (hubUrl and genome)trackLeavesOnly=1
/list/chromosomesgenome or (hubUrl and genome)track
/list/schema(genome or (hubUrl and genome)) and track(none)
/getData/sequence(genome or (hubUrl and genome)) and chromstart and end
/getData/track(genome or (hubUrl and genome)) and trackchrom, (start and end), maxItemsOutput, jsonOutputArrays

By reviewing example data access URLs demonstrating of list and getData functions and further practical examples URLs of extracting specific track data items you can learn more about the ways of using the API to extract data.

What is the Download server and how does one use it?

The UCSC Genome Browser Download website,, is the source of the data hosted in the Amazon s3://genome-browser bucket. It can be viewed in a web browser to access specific download files, or the data can be copied with rysnc commands.


For instance, the following rsync command will show you the various rysnc directories available on our Download server:

$ rsync -a -P rsync:// 

genome         UCSC Human Genome Downloads
sars           UCSC Human Genome SARS Downloads
htdocs         UCSC Human Genome Web Site Htdocs
goldenPath     UCSC Human Golden Path Downloads
cgi-bin        UCSC Human Genome Web Site CGI Binaries x86_64
cgi-bin-i386   UCSC Human Genome Web Site CGI Binaries i386
gbdb           UCSC Human Genome Browser Gbdb Config Files
archives       UCSC Human Genome Browser Archived Config Files
mysql          UCSC Human Genome Raw Mysql Tables
gbib           UCSC Genome Browser in a Box
hubs           UCSC Genome Browser Public Hubs

Many of these rsync directories exist to support the Genome Browser in a Cloud (GBiC) and the Genome Browser in a Box (GBiB) software products discussed below. Also note that there is a mirror of the download server available in Europe so the above rysnc commands can also be pointed to the hgdownload-euro locations.

What is the MySQL server and how does one use it?

The UCSC Genome Browser uses MariaDB (fork of MySQL) as the backend database server and maintains a public server at to allow direct queries.


See the Downloading Data using MariaDB (MySQL) for more information. Also, there is a mirror of the MariaDb server available in Europe so commands can also be pointed to the genome-euro-mysql location.

What are GBiB and GBIC? (Genome Browser in a Box/in the Cloud)

To replicate, or mirror, the software of the UCSC Genome Browser in another location we offer the Genome Browser in a Cloud (GBiC) and the Genome Browser in a Box (GBiB) software products.

The GBiC is an installation script that automates the setup of a UCSC Genome Browser mirror including setting up MariaDB and Apache servers. The program downloads and configures MySQL and Apache, and then downloads the UCSC Genome Browser software to /usr/local/apache to make a local instance of the Browser.

The GBiB is a small virtual machine version of the UCSC Genome Browser that can be run on a laptop or desktop computer. It requires an installation of a compatible version of the VirtualBox Software, and will then access annotation data on demand through the Internet from UCSC as used, or selective data can be downloaded for faster access.

The GBiB and GBiC software tools resource the Download server to rsync data, as well as in certain circumstances the MySQL server to extract coordinate-specific table data.

See the individual support pages for the GBiC and the GBiB for detailed information about how to install and operate both. You can get either the GBiC or the GBiB from the UCSC Genome Browser store free for non-commercial use.

Do you support Docker?

We do support a Dockerfile, that in essence points to the GBiC installation script. While we recommend our GBiC script, we understand many people are more familiar with working through Docker and provide Docker installation instructions.

Please note, similar to how our GBiB and GBiC are available in the UCSC Genome Browser store, where usage of our mirror software is free for non-commercial use. Any commercial usage, including through the Docker image, involves a license.

How do I extract data from the bigBed/2bit data formats?

A lot of our data is stored in a binary indexed version called bigBed. This format saves space and also allows the extraction of information based on the first three fields (chrom, chromStart, chromEnd), which define annotation coordinate location.

To pull information out of bigBed files there is a tool called bigBedToBed. By running the command by itself you can see the command options.

bigBedToBed v1 - Convert from bigBed to ascii bed format.
   bigBedToBed output.bed
   -chrom=chr1 - if set restrict output to given chromosome
   -start=N - if set, restrict output to only that over start
   -end=N - if set, restict output to only that under end
   -maxItems=N - if set, restrict output to first N items
   -udcDir=/dir/to/cache - place to put cache for remote bigBed/bigWigs
   -header - output a autoSql-style header (starts with '#').

Another similar tool is available to extract data from the binary indexed 2bit sequence storage format. The tool twoBitToFa can be given coordinate ranges and the DNA can be extracted from the file.


Where can I learn more about Amazon Tools?

The Amazon Ecosystem comes integrated with a collection of systems such as CloudFront, CloudWatch, Relational Database Service (RDS), Elastic Block Store (EBS), Lambda, and Aurora. Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud. The UCSC Genome Browser's tableName.MYD and tableName.MYI files can be used with Aurora, instead of installing MariaDb, however, there may be some services costs in Amazon for using Aurora.