Background: Distinguishing between individuals is critical to those conducting animal/plant breeding, food safety/quality research, diagnostic and clinical testing, and evolutionary biology studies. Classical genetic identification studies are based on marker polymorphisms, but polymorphism-based techniques are time and labor intensive and often cannot distinguish between closely related individuals. Illumina sequencing technologies provide the detailed sequence data required for rapid and efficient differentiation of related species, lines/cultivars, and individuals in a cost-effective manner. Here we describe the use of Illumina high-throughput exome sequencing, coupled with SNP mapping, as a rapid means of distinguishing between related cultivars of the lignocellulosic bioenergy crop giant miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus). We provide the first exome sequence database for Miscanthus species complete with Gene Ontology (GO) functional annotations. Results: A SNP comparative analysis of rhizome-derived cDNA sequences was successfully utilized to distinguish three Miscanthus × giganteus cultivars from each other and from other Miscanthus species. Moreover, the resulting phylogenetic tree generated from SNP frequency data parallels the known breeding history of the plants examined. Some of the giant miscanthus plants exhibit considerable sequence divergence. Conclusions: Here we describe an analysis of Miscanthus in which high-throughput exome sequencing was utilized to differentiate between closely related genotypes despite the current lack of a reference genome sequence. We functionally annotated the exome sequences and provide resources to support Miscanthus systems biology. In addition, we demonstrate the use of the commercial high-performance cloud computing to do computational GO annotation.