Toronto, ON – The first-ever pan-Canadian network of high performance computing (HPC) facilities has been established with funding of $88 million.
The platform will bring together seven existing regional HPC consortia, and allow approximately 6,000 researchers at 61 universities across the country to access this advanced computer power.
Funding is being shared by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), with $60 million from the CFI under its new National Platforms Fund, $18 million from its Infrastructure Operating Fund, and $10 million over 5 years from NSERC to help pay for the staff who will run the network.
The network is being hailed as a national resource comparable to the building of the first national railway in the 19th century. It will benefit the entire spectrum of research in Canada by providing access to significant computational resources for research, and rapid scientific solutions for problems and for product development.
Under the leadership of Dr Jonathan Schaeffer of the University of Alberta, researchers have been lobbying for the creation of a national HPC network since the mid-1990s. To this end, an organization called C3.ca was founded in 1997, which was followed by the development of a long-range plan and establishment of the national Compute/Calcul Canada network last year.
Speaking at the funding announcement, Dr Schaeffer said the network is a cost-effective shared research laboratory that spans all research areas – sciences, engineering, medical, computational chemistry, atmospheric science, nanotechnology, to name just a few. He compared the computing power available through this network of supercomputers to a typical desktop: it offers 33,000 times the processing power, 66,000 times the memory and 100,000 times the storage capacity of a single desktop computer.
The network will function on the existing CANARIE national fibre optic network, and will join the seven existing regional computing consortia, Atlantic Canada’s Acenet, Clumeq and RQCHP in Quebec, Scinet, Sharcnet and HPCVL in Ontario, and Western Canada’s Westgrid.
“This represents a major leap forward for Canada’s HPC community,” said Dr Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the CFI. “This is a truly national effort, with all seven HPC consortia across the country collaborating as full partners in this project. This investment will provide researchers with the tools to solve large-scale computational problems that we could not even have imagined tackling 10 years ago.”
Dr Andrew Bjerring, president and CEO of Canarie, saluted c3.ca for the “phenomenal achievement” of getting all 61 universities to cooperate on the project.