Compute Canada

Research Solutions Diagram

Services Provided in Partnership with Compute Canada

High Performance Computing

Simulations, calculations, data manipulations, and other forms of analysis at a large scale can benefit from using our clusters, large memory machines, and graphic processing unit resources.

What is HPC?
HPC stands for “High Performance Computing” and primarily refers to running computer programs across multiple processors at the same time for increased speed. This is often referred to as “parallel computing” and programming tools such as MPI (Message Passing Interface”) and OpenMP (Open Multi-Processing) are written into the code to enable this to happen. HPC is a sub-component of ARC (Advanced Research Computing) which is meant to capture computing techniques and methods that are beyond what an average desktop or laptop can perform.
How do I get access to HPC?
The first step is to sign-up for a Compute Canada account. Instructions on how to set up both Compute Canada and WestGrid accounts can be found here. Once your account is in place, you will be able to access many of the HPC machines within the WestGrid and Compute Canada networks using a protocol called Secure Shell (SSH), a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network. Having a WestGrid and Compute Canada account will grant you access to a basic amount of available resources. If you require a larger amount of the available resources then you will need to submit an application to Compute Canada as part of a process known as the Resource Allocation Competition (RAC), or contact your local site rep to see if other options are available.
What HPC systems are available?
Five major systems are in place, as follows:
  1. Arbutus - A cloud platform with compute and persistent nodes, located at the University of Victoria
  2. Béluga - A general-purpose HPC cluster, located at the École de technologie supérieure in Montréal
  3. Cedar - A large general-purpose HPC cluster, located at Simon Fraser University
  4. Graham - A general-purpose HPC cluster, located at the University of Waterloo
  5. Niagara - A tightly coupled HPC cluster, located at the University of Toronto
A slightly older system, Hélios, has a previous generation of GPUs and is located at Laval University.
What training is available for HPC services?
Training is available for how to use the HPC systems via workshops, webinars, and one-on-one sessions. There are also instructions for how to use most of the systems on the consortia websites.
What support is available for HPC services?
Technical support is available from Compute Canada, including from staff in IST. Documentation is also available.
What is the cost for using HPC services?
Use of the HPC systems within the Compute Canada network is free for faculty and librarians at Canadian research institutions. Use beyond basic amounts is subject to the RAC review process noted above. Students gain access through a sponsoring faculty member, also at no cost.

Compute Canada Cloud

Cloud computing can extend your research infrastructure for tasks like: research websites or portals, web scraping, data crunching, or running interactive software on systems more powerful than your desktop.

What is the cloud?
Cloud computing can be described as “using someone else’s computer via a remote connection.” What matters is where that computer is, and how it is being used. Possible service offerings include file storage tools and data processing pipelines, to assembling a virtual computer from the parts of a much larger machine at the cloud hosting site.
Where is the cloud?
Cloud services can typically be accessed from anywhere an Internet connection is available (although some services might be restricted to only connections made from within certain locations), so from the perspective of access the cloud is “(almost) everywhere.” From the perspective of where the machines providing the resources are located the cloud is in very particular locations. All of the machines associated with the Compute Canada Cloud are located in Canada at research institutions, which can be an important feature for anyone concerned about privacy and control of their data.
What cloud services are available?

There are currently three principal cloud services available:

  • OwnCloud. This service is run on the Cedar system at Simon Fraser University. It provides 50 GB of Dropbox-like storage to anyone with a Compute Canada account that has turned on their access to WestGrid. It can be accessed via Internet browsers, a downloadable desktop tool, or an app placed on a cell phone or tablet.
  • Globus. This is a file transfer tool that offers a drag-and-drop-like interface via Internet browsers (a command line version is also available). It has powerful features like full encryption, fire and forget transfers that automatically continue when the connection is interrupted, and a very efficient/fast transfer protocol. Globus is useful for moving data to and from Compute Canada systems but also for moving data between (almost) any system that an account holder has access to.
  • OpenStack Cloud. OpenStack is the tool used by most Compute Canada cloud sites to provide account holders with the ability to assemble virtual machines in the cloud that can be put to work doing pretty much anything that a powerful desktop/laptop (or set of powerful desktops/laptops) could do.
How is access to cloud services gained?
The first step is to sign-up for a Compute Canada account. Once this account is obtained, OwnCloud can be utilized by turning on access to WestGrid by completing the following steps, and then waiting 24 hours for the application to be processed:
  • Log in to ccdb.computecanada.ca
  • Select “Apply for a consortium account” from the “My Account” menu
  • Select WestGrid
Globus access can be activated automatically by visiting globus.computecanada.ca and logging in with Compute Canada selected as the institution. Access to the OpenStack cloud resources happens by following the instructions at the bottom of this Compute Canada page.
What training is available for Cloud Services?
WestGrid has recorded two introductory cloud seminars. The first looks at the OpenStack cloud tool and is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38AjZdtG0Sc. The second covers OwnCloud and Globus and is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghgnrUksxlc. In addition to these webinars, in-person training workshops are offered a few times a year. At the University of Alberta, these workshops are regularly held during the Spring in conjunction with Research Data Management Week. Requests can also be made through the various consortia support channels for cloud training.
What support is available for Cloud Services?
Support for the OpenStack cloud tool and its underlying hardware is available through Computer Canada's website and by emailing cloud@computecanada.ca. Globus support is available by emailing globus@computecanada.ca. Support for OwnCloud is available by emailing support@computecanada.ca.

Software

Hundreds of popular research software packages are pre-installed and ready to go. If what you need is not readily available, we will work with you to either choose an alternative, or install the software you need.

What software is available?
Software currently loaded on the Compute Canada systems is documented on their Wiki. The list changes frequently as new software is added. You can request the installation or updating of a particular program or library by contacting Technical Support.
What is the process for installing new software modules?
New software modules are usually installed by system analysts and administrators on a system-wide level. Requests for new modules can be made by emailing support@computecanada.ca. Commercial software packages can also be requested.
What training is available for software tools?
Training is available on how to use select software tools via workshops, webinars, and one-on-one sessions. There are also instructions for how to use most of the systems on Compute Canada’s website and associated documentation Wiki. Requests can also be made through the various consortia support channels for HPC training.
What support is available for software tools?
Support for software is handed by Technical Support.

Training

A variety of training opportunities are available through our Research Computing group as well as our online partners, such as WestGrid. Take a peek into how we can help you learn and evolve your research computing skills.

When is training available?

A variety of training opportunities are available throughout the year on an ongoing basis.

Principally these include:

  • Data and/or Software Carpentry Workshops. These are two day workshops meant to bootstrap researchers into the position where they are able to begin handling data appropriately and using programming pipelines to process them. These are typically available at the start of each Fall and Winter term.
  • Webinars. These are available throughout the term with a rotating array of topics. Current listings of upcoming and archived events at the University of Alberta and WestGrid can be found here. More information can also be found on the WestGrid website.
  • HPC Systems Skills Workshops. These are typically run as in-person workshops at the University of Alberta during Research Computing Bootcamps held three times each year: late April to early May, late September to early October, and late January to early February.
How do I find out about training opportunities and sign-up for them?
Upcoming training events are posted on the front page of the Research Computing Group page with registration information attached to each link.
What is the cost of training?
Training is typically free. The only exceptions are Data Carpentry and Software Carpentry courses where there is usually a $20 fee that is used to cover the cost of coffee and snacks throughout the two-day workshops.

Storage

From 50 GB of Dropbox-like storage to run your lab to petabytes of storage to handle your research data, Compute Canada account holders can store data and files in places that will provide both the room and features you need to get your research done.

What storage is available?

Compute Canada account holders have access to a variety of storage resources across the available systems ranging from 50 GB via OwnCloud (see Cloud section for details) to petabytes of storage for large research projects. The exact amount of storage available depends on the system being used and whether the account holder has been allocated storage resources beyond the basic amounts available to all users.

What costs are associated with storage?

Use of storage systems within the Compute Canada network is free for faculty and librarians at Canadian research institutions, although use beyond basic amounts is subject to the RAC review process. Find out more about the Resource Allocation Competition (RAC).

Visualization

Ensure that your research achieves maximum impact by communicating it clearly and effectively with great visualizations. We can connect you to WestGrid experts and applicable software to help you do exactly this.

What visualization tools and services are available?

WestGrid maintains a Visualization Expert who is shared across Compute Canada. Visualization support is available on the Compute Canada website, and some consortia within Compute Canada maintains a set of visualization resources, as follows:

How can these visualization tools and services be accessed?
Accessing these tools and services depends on the systems on which they have been deployed.
What training is available for visualization?
Training is available through the individual consortia and will be listed via the links to the visualization portions of their websites, linked to above, when available. Requests can also be made through the various consortia support channels for visualization training.
What support is available for visualization?

Visualization support and information is available at viz-support@computecanada.ca

What costs are associated with visualization?
Use of the visualization systems and support available within the Compute Canada network is free for faculty and librarians at Canadian research institutions. Use beyond basic amounts is subject to the RAC review process noted above. Students holding accounts through a sponsoring faculty member can also use the systems and support at no direct cost.

Our Partners in Research Computing

Compute Canada, in partnership with it's regional organizations including WestGrid, provides the infrastructure that allows for innovation in advanced research computing (ARC). Deploying state-of-the-art ARC systems, storage and software solutions, Compute Canada is your go-to resource for research computing. To learn more, apply for an account, or access your current account, please visit Compute Canada's website.

WestGrid's team of technical experts work in partnership with Compute Canada to provide advanced research computing facilities and research data management services to researchers across Canada. Providing researchers with training as well as the technical resources for high performance computing, visualization and data storage, WestGrid is a outstanding resource for support. To learn more or log into your account, please visit WestGrid's website.