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WestGrid, Compute Canada & SFU Unveil Canada's Most Powerful Academic Supercomputer

VANCOUVER, BC (April 20, 2017) - Today WestGrid, Compute Canada, and Simon Fraser University (SFU) celebrated the launch of the most powerful academic supercomputer in Canada, Cedar. Housed in the new data centre at SFU’s Burnaby Campus, Cedar will serve Canadian researchers across the country in all scientific disciplines by providing expanded compute, storage and cloud resources.

Click here to read a Top 10 Things To Know About Cedar fact sheet

Today's ceremonial launch marks the culmination of thousands of hours of work by WestGrid, SFU, and Compute Canada staff to acquire, install, assemble, test, and prepare the new system for its operational launch this June.

“New technology is always exciting, but combine it with our greatest resource — our people — and you’ve got something that is truly transformative,” says Lindsay Sill, executive director of WestGrid, a regional partner of Compute Canada. “With Cedar setting a new bar for computing power in Canada, and our experts behind the scenes supporting its use, I think we’ll see extraordinary advances in artificial intelligence, green technology, personalized medicine, and other key research areas that directly benefit Canadians.”

Compute Canada, in collaboration with its regional partners and member institutions, is leading a national renewal and modernization of supercomputers and data storage facilities. This first stage is valued at $75-million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) as well as provincial and industry partners, and includes four national sites, one of which is the SFU system.

“I am pleased that our government, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, is investing in the latest advanced scientific technology that will support front-line scientists whose contributions help us build a healthier, stronger middle class. Cedar will help scientists exchange ideas, collaborate and make discoveries that lead to faster technologies, new medical therapies and a more prosperous economy,” says the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science.

Currently, there are 27 data centres and 50 aging legacy systems across Canada that will be consolidated into five to ten data centres by the end of 2018.

“We are honoured to be one of the four new national advanced research computing (ARC) systems that will provide Canadian researchers access to the latest technology and expertise they need to maketransformative scientific discoveries,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president, research and international. “SFU is a distinct leader in ARC and Cedar will place us in the world’s top 100 supercomputer installations.”

With greater computational power than all of Compute Canada’s legacy systems combined, Cedar is built for big data. The system can support researchers collecting, analyzing or sharing immense volumes of data and will provide the scale and capacity required for today’s modern research needs.

“Most research today is data intensive, whether your area is genomics, advanced materials, or humanities and social sciences,” says Dr. Dugan O’Neil, Compute Canada’s chief science officer and physics professor at SFU. “Cedar, and the three national other systems, will serve a diverse range of research projects and enable discoveries that may not have otherwise happened because the tools were simply not there.”

Dr. Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at SFU who runs a “microbe-loving bioinformatics and genomics research lab, aiming to better control infectious diseases in a sustainable way,” is eager to get her hands on the new system.

“The new ARC system, Cedar, will allow Canadian researchers to much more quickly analyze the DNA of microbes, allowing us to more rapidly track and understand the origins and spread of infectious disease outbreaks,” says Brinkman.

“For the community of over 11,000 Canadian researchers that we serve today, Cedar will give Canadian researchers and innovators the ability to compete and excel globally using big data and big compute tools,” says Mark Dietrich, Compute Canada’s president and chief executive officer. “We’re honoured to collaborate with our partners at SFU and WestGrid and proud of the achievements we’ve accomplished together.”

Mark Roman, SFU’s chief information officer agrees: “Providing a national, strategic research computing service involves some obvious facilities such as massive computational processing and vast storage capacity. There are also many behind-the-scenes facilities, including enormously complex support services, processes and infrastructure. Ultimately, the real success of this project is fully and completely dependent on a small group of brilliant and dedicated people—they are the true heroes who transcend the technology.”

Fast Facts

  • Cedar is currently Canada’s most powerful academic supercomputer and one of the world’s top 100 supercomputer installations.
  • Cedar will give researchers across Canada access to unprecedented computing power, expanded storage, and cloud resources.
  • Cedar provides the scale and capacity required for today’s modern research needs and will help transcend the previous possibilities of Canadian research and innovation in a number of key areas that directly benefit Canadians, including personalized medicine, green technologies, and artificial intelligence.


Pictured: Mark Dietrich, President and CEO of Compute Canada, shares remarks at the Cedar / SFU Data Centre launch event