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Compute Canada / WestGrid Celebrate Resources Supporting Alberta Research Institutions

Calgary, AB (Tuesday, April 3, 2012) – More than 100 members of Alberta’s academic, government and innovation sectors gathered today for an Alberta-wide launch of powerful computing and data storage resources that will support the next generation of leading-edge Canadian research.

Recent purchases over the last seven months conclude a three-year rollout of more than $17 million of investments through Compute Canada / WestGrid towards high performance computing (HPC) and data storage resources at the University of Calgary (UofC) and the University of Alberta (UofA), along with upgrades to research visualization and collaboration facilities at the UofC, UofA, Athabasca University (AU), University of Lethbridge (UofL), and The Banff Centre. These investments were made possible with contributions from the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Government of Alberta through Advanced Education and Technology, each of the five post-secondary institutions, SGI, HP and Appro.

“This national platform is a shining example of how researchers are transcending borders and working together in the name of science,” said Dr. Gilles G. Patry, President and CEO for the CFI. “Rapid developments in HPC technology have revolutionized the way research is done throughout Canada.”

At the UofC, Compute Canada / WestGrid purchased two HP clusters with more than 11,000 Intel processor cores and 160 Terabytes of shared storage. One of those clusters has 180 Graphical Processor Units  (GPUs), which are used to accelerate the performance of applications. Both clusters have high performance interconnection networks enabling high performance parallel computing. In addition, another cluster purchased from Appro has more than 380 AMD processor cores and supports applications requiring large amounts of memory.

For Peter Tieleman, a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the UofC, access to Compute Canada / WestGrid resources is critical to his work.

“You can’t run our simulations on desktop computers or even small clusters of computers,” said Tieleman, who is also the UofC's representative on the WestGrid Executive. “The only solution for us is Compute Canada / WestGrid and its high performance computing facilities where you can use thousands of processors at once.”

At the UofA, Compute Canada / WestGrid purchased two SGI compute clusters with more than 4,300 cores and more than 900 Terabytes of shared storage. These are used to address a range of problems, including supporting the Canadian research team’s work on CERN’s international ATLAS project. The UofA is also host to an SGI UltraViolet computer that has 2,048 Intel processor cores and 16 Terabytes random access memory in a single shared address space. This provides eight times more shared memory than the next largest system available in Compute Canada and enables large research challenges to be tackled that are not suited to distributed parallel computing. These include problems in engineering, artificial intelligence and bioinformatics.

“Providing high quality research environments will enable our province to attract high quality R&D teams,” said Lorne Babiuk, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Alberta. “Investments like this will help keep Alberta competitive and able to participate in the global research arena.”

Compute Canada / WestGrid is also demonstrating a new virtual reality IQ Station today, which was purchased earlier this year. Using 3D glasses and a Nintendo Wii controller, the IQ Station user is able to control interactions with the simulated objects and data representations on the screen. 

Lastly, each Compute Canada / WestGrid partner institution in Alberta hosts a collaboration room, which is used for advanced videoconferencing, distributed research collaborations and multi-site research seminars. Software and hardware upgrades have been made to each of these rooms over the last three years.

Overall, Alberta’s purchases and upgrades complement earlier NPF-supported investments of more than $50 million to Compute Canada / WestGrid’s computing and storage systems at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Victoria. Compute Canada / WestGrid’s resources are part of a national HPC platform, interconnected through advanced optical networks, and accessible by researchers at partner institutions across Canada.


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