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What We Do

WestGrid brings together computing facilities, research data management services, and a network of technical experts to meet the needs of today's researchers. Together with Compute Canada's three other regional organizations, WestGrid is helping Compute Canada lead the acceleration of research and innovation. As one of Compute Canada’s largest regional organizations, WestGrid works collaboratively with Members & Partners across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

WestGrid itself does not conduct research, but rather enables research that is world-class and solves problems for Canadians by using Canadian supercomputers and big data to:

  • reduce crime and catch criminals,
  • predict election results and public opinion, and;
  • help Canadian companies innovate with 3D manufacturing. 

These innovators are solving some of our biggest scientific challenges, such as:

  • mapping the human brain,
  • curing disease and;
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft. 

Our clients are the researchers and their institutions. The "organization" is the national Compute Canada project which includes the four regional organizations. 

Although we mainly support academia we also support some industry and government labs. The resources and services are provided at no cost for anyone working for or collaborating with a university, as per our Access Policy.

What is Advanced Research Computing?

Advanced Research Computing (ARC) is everything beyond a standard desktop workstation, which includes cloud, supercomputers / high performance computing (HPC), data management, and data storage, all in support of research.

Supercomputers are increasingly needed, especially within our research institutions, as scientists across all disciplines are producing an unprecedented amount of data on everything from predicting weather and ocean changes to searching for distant galaxies. Supercomputers can do the work of thousands of desktop computers and better support the growing needs of researchers today.

ARC is not just the computers and physical infrastructure. It also includes the people (highly qualified personnel) and the service layer that is different than just the equipment definition of HPC or supercomputing.

To better understand this, think of the automotive industry. When designing new cars and looking for stronger and safer materials, you might test the materials through simulations. That would save a lot of time and money compared to trying to crash cars over and over. Then, once a product meets the simulation tests, it can be tested using real materials.
 

Regional Support

We maintain the philosophy that the best support is local. As such, many of the day-to-day interactions between researchers and support staff are managed by regional-based consortia, providing users with access to the tools and expertise they need, no matter where they are located. Technical support for WestGrid is provided by WestGrid staff and by system administrators and analysts from many of the institutions comprising the WestGrid consortium. System administrators oversee activities related to the deployment and administration of the national platform resources. Those activities include: hardware maintenance, networking, software installation, creation of documentation, OS upgrades, compiler installs, etc.

WestGrid takes special pride in providing our users with the support they need to achieve their research needs. From new to advanced users, support can be in person, by phone or via email and can include debugging, code optimization, applications support, etc. We also offer free or low-cost training opportunities for users both in person and via video conference. Topics range from an introduction to WestGrid and Compute Canada to how to use visualizations and manage big data.

Researchers need a diverse set of tools and training that a few employees of research support in one Department or even one University could provide on its own. In order to accommodate all of the unique research support needs of the very distributed user base, it makes sense for a number of institutions to join up their research computing support resources to take advantage of the economy of scale, and to allow a more diverse set of support offerings.

Funding Model

WestGrid and our seven Member institutions, as regional partners of Compute Canada, receive funding for the operations and maintenance (O&M) needs of national advanced research computing support through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund. The provincial partners and academic institutions provide the required matching funds for all CFI grants. 

Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Major Science Intiatives (MSI) Fund
The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) gives researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions, the CFI is helping to attract and retain the world’s top talent, to train the next generation of researchers, to support private-sector innovation and to create high-quality jobs that strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians. Through its Major Science Initiative (MSI) Fund, the CFI seeks to support national research facilities that support leading-edge research and technology development, and promote the mobilization of knowledge and transfer of technology to society. The scope of these areas of research—ocean and earth sciences, for example—is so significant and complex that it requires unusually large-scale facilities and equipment, substantial human resources, and complex operating and maintenance activities.

 

WestGrid Mission & Vision

Mission

To advance and support research, and to accelerate innovation and excellence in Western Canada through:

  • the development of a regional community of highly qualified expert personnel; 
  • the creation of a suite of user and expert training programs across all disciplines; 
  • the creation of collaborative and mutually advantageous relationships with national and provincial digital infrastructure leaders; 
  • advocacy on behalf of Western Canadian researchers and institutions; and 
  • contributions to the efforts and policies of the national advanced research computing (ARC) framework.

Vision

To be the provider of ARC support and services to advance research and innovation in Western Canada.