Installation of a UCSC Genome Browser on a local machine ("mirror")


Considerations before installing a Genome Browser
Installing a Genome Browser locally with the GBiC installer
Manual installation instructions
Using UDR to speed up downloads
The genome-mirror mailing list

Considerations before installing a Genome Browser

Like most web servers, running a Genome Browser installation at your institution, even for your own department, requires a Unix machine, disk space (6TB for hg19), and the resources to update the site and underlying OS regularly. You may want to consider these alternatives before embarking on a full UCSC Genome Browser installation directly on your server.

  1. Embed the Genome Browser graphic in your web page

    If you only want to include a genome browser view into your webpage for already existing genomes, you can use an <iframe> tag and point it to, which will show only the main browser graphic without any decorations.

    You can then use various parameters to adapt this graphic to your use case (e.g. set the displayed position, switch tracks on/off or highlight a range with a color), see our manual pages for a list of the parameters.

  2. Use Assembly Hubs

    Assembly Hubs: Assembly Hubs allow you to prepare any FASTA file, add annotations and use the Genome Browser to visualize it. All you need is a webserver where you save the indexed genome sequence and files to annotate it, e.g. in BAM, bigBed or bigWig format.

    • Pros:
      • No installation, no updates, no long-term UNIX support necessary.
      • Stable for many years, the link to the assembly hub can be put into a manuscript.
      • For commercial users, no license is required.
    • Cons:
      • You need access to a public webserver to store the files.
      • Data is rendered at UCSC. Private data can be password-protected and loaded through https and restricted to UCSC's IP address, but has to be located on the web and accessible by the UCSC webserver.
      • For BLAT searches in your genome, you have to start a BLAT server yourself on a Unix server.
      • If your hub includes a high number of annotation files or HAL (multiple alignment) files and is located far from Santa Cruz, the display performance of assembly hubs may be slower than a local mirror. This issue can be resolved by using a UCSC mirror closer to the assembly hub (e.g. use for assembly hubs located on servers in Europe, or for those in Asia). Alternatively, you can improve performance by moving your hub data to a webspace provider closer to Santa Cruz or by using a content distribution network, where all content is mirrored and the closest location is chosen by your provider.
  3. Use Genome Browser in a Box

    Genome Browser in a Box (GBiB): is a fully configured virtual machine that includes Apache and Mysql, and has behavior identifical to the UCSC website. GBiB loads genome data from the UCSC download servers on the fly. Website and data updates are applied automatically every two weeks. By default, GBiB uses the VirtualBox virtualization software, so it can be run on any operating system, Windows, OSX and Linux. It does not require VirtualBox, the virtual machine image can easily be converted to e.g., VMWare or HyperV. For increased privacy, you can download the genomes and annotation tracks you need and use your GBiB off-line even on a laptop.

    • Pros:
      • Relatively simple to install: download and double-click.
      • By default, software and data updates are managed remotely by UCSC, via an update script run every week.
      • Best performance when rendering local BAM/bigWig/bigBed files.
      • No Unix webserver needed, runs on any OS.
      • For commercial users: easier click-through licensing compared to a full multi-seat, manual license.
    • Cons:
      • Requires the free VirtualBox software or a commercial Virtualization system.
      • By default requires opening at least three outgoing ports to UCSC for MySQL, Rsync downloads and BLAT in your firewall. Once all data is downloaded, no open ports are needed.
      • For maximum browsing speed, can require up to 2-6TB to store all genome annotation tracks, like a manual local installation.

If none of the above options fulfill your needs, consider setting up a full local mirror of the UCSC website. We support mirror site installations as time allows, and have many functional mirrors of the Genome Browser worldwide.

A license is required for commercial download and/or installation of the Genome Browser binaries and source code. No license is needed for academic, nonprofit, and personal use. To purchase a license, see our license Instructions or visit the Genome Browser store.

Installing a Genome Browser locally with the GBiC installer

If you do not want to use our prepared virtual machine Genome-Browser-in-a-Box, we provide a Genome Browser in the Cloud (GBiC) installation program that sets up a fully functional mirror on all major Linux distributions.

It has been tested on Ubuntu 14/16, RedHat/CentOS 6 and 7, and Fedora 20. Preferably, the installation should be performed on a fresh Linux installation, as it deactivates the default site config file in Apache and fills the MySQL directory with numerous databases. The easiest way to accomplish this is to run the Genome Browser in the Cloud program in a new virtual machine. The program also works on Docker and cloud computing virtual machines, and has been tested on those sold by Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Like GBiB, the mirror installed by the GBiC can load the annotation data either from UCSC or a local database copy. If you load data from UCSC and use a cloud computing provider, it is highly advisable to run your instances in the US West Coast / San Francisco Bay Area or San Jose data centers; otherwise data-loading may be very slow.

To run the installation program, please see the GBiC user guide.

Manual installation instructions

If the installation program does not work on your linux distribution or you prefer to make adaptations to your mirror, we also provide step-by-step installation instructions that cover the configuration of Apache, MySQL, the Genome Browser CGIs, temporary file removal and other topics, like data loading through proxies.

The following external websites were not created by UCSC staff and are of varying quality, but may be helpful when installing on unusual platforms.

Using UDR to speed up downloads

UDR (UDT Enabled Rsync) is a download protocol that is very efficent at sending large amounts of data over long distances. UDR utilizes rsync as the transport mechanism, but sends the data over the UDT protocol. UDR is not written or managed by UCSC. It is an open source tool created by the Laboratory for Advanced Computing at the University of Chicago. It has been tested under Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OSX, but may work under other UNIX variants. The source code can be obtained through GitHub. When using the GBIC installation program, the -u option will use UDR for all downloads.

If you manually download data only occasionally, there is no need to change your method; continue to visit our download server to download the files you need. This new protocol has been put in place primarily to facilitate quick downloads of huge amounts of data over long distances.

With typical TCP-based protocols like http, ftp, and rsync, the tranfer speed slows as the distance between the download source and destination increases. Protocols like UDT/UDR allow for many UDP packets to be sent in batch, thus allowing for much higher transmission speeds over long distances. UDR will be especially useful for users who are downloading from places distant to California. The US East Coast and the international community will likely see much higher download speeds when using UDR vs. rsync, http or ftp.

If you need help building the UDR binaries or have questions about how UDR functions, please read the documentation on the GitHub page and if necessary, contact the UDR authors via the GitHub page. We recommend reading the documentation on the UDR GitHub page to better understand how UDR works. UDR is written in C++. It is Open Source and is released under the Apache 2.0 License. In order for it to work, you must have rsync installed on your system.

For your convenience, we offer a binary distribution of UDR for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.x (or variants such as CentOS 6 or Scientific Linux 6). You'll find both a 64-bit and 32-bit rpm here.

Once you have a working UDR binary, either by building from source or by installing the rpm, you can download files from either of our our download servers in a fashion similar to rsync. For example, using rsync, all of the MySQL tables for the hg19 database can be downloaded using either one of the following two commands:

rsync -avP rsync:// /my/local/hg19/
rsync -avP /my/local/hg19/

Using UDR is very similar. The UDR syntax for downloading the same data would be:

udr rsync -avP /my/local/hg19/

The genome-mirror mailing list

For questions about installing and mirroring the UCSC Genome Browser, contact the UCSC mailing list Messages sent to this address will be posted the moderated genome-mirror mailing list, which is archived on a SEARCHABLE PUBLIC Google Groups forum.