The IRMACS Centre's Infrastructure - Computers

Computer support collage

The IRMACS Centre provides advanced computing and wireless infrastructure throughout its labs and meeting rooms.

Software Computers Networking Printing Security  
HPC Support and Integration Consistent User Platform Multi
Platform Support
Virtualized Research Infrastructure Science as a Service (Advanced Research Services) Technical Support


The IRMACS Centre provides a wide range of commercial, open source and freeware software in the following fields: Programming and Modelling, Bioinformatics, Statistics and Mathematics, Multimedia, and Productivity and Utilities. These software packages run on a range of operating systems, including OS X, Windows, and Linux. The IRMACS Technical Staff is willing to install or configure any open source or freeware software to meet researcher's needs.


The IRMACS computing environment consists of more than 90 desktop computers, a file server on which researcher's data resides (backed up nightly). All of the desktop computers are centrally configured providing IRMACS users with consistent access to software and their data. Each computer has research-oriented software that has uses in such diverse areas as: mathematics, statistics, bioinformatics, engineering, and computer science. In addition to these research tools each computer has a full suite of software development tools.


A high-performance Gigabit per second, non-blocking Ethernet network connects the entire IRMACS computing infrastructure. IRMACS has multiple gigabit connections to the campus backbone, one for external connectivity and one a dedicated gigabit network connection to the WestGrid high performance computing facilities. IRMACS maintains dedicated fibre optic lightpaths for researchers who require long-haul connectivity to remote facilities through the CANARIE research network and user controlled light paths (UCLP).


IRMACS provides a both a high-speed black & white laser with document finishing capabilities and a colour laser printer. These printers are accesible from the machines in the labs.

If you want to print via wireless from a mobile device or laptop you can use the SFU web print interface. The IRMACS printers are visible from the interface. Simply choose the printer in ASB 10933 as the printer you want to use and follow the directions to print a document.


The entire IRMACS network is secured by a firewall. This configuration protects researchers and their data from intruders and hackers. The usual host based mechanisms such as virus scanners and security patches are also employed to ensure researchers enjoy a reliable and secure environment.

HPC Support and Integration with Existing HPC Facilities

The IRMACS proposal was premised on the notion that it would make the fullest use possible of previously funded and established computing facilities. WestGrid/Compute Canada should be the first choice of IRMACS researchers needing large computational resources. Accordingly the IRMACS Centre's computational facilities are targeted at niche uses that WestGrid has difficulty meeting. In particular, the IRMACS cluster is targeted at computational jobs that have short turn around times and are interactive in nature. The IRMACS Centre is tightly coupled with the WestGrid infrastructure. Currently, this includes both the hosting of WestGrid equipment within the IRMACS facility (see the IRMACS Visualization page), the maintenance of a Compute Canada/WestGrid resource allocation on behalf of all IRMACS researchers, and the provisioning of a dedicated gigabit network connection between IRMACS and the WestGrid core network.

Single Default User Platform

Reducing the complexity of the environment by focusing most effort on a single platform permits the IT staff to provide the greatest level of added value to the IRMACS researchers. Apple's Mac OS X Operating System is the default platform. The OS X operating system, already widely used for software development and research computing, combines UNIX capabilities with traditional desktop applications such as Word, Excel, and Power Point.

Alternative Platform Support and Software Hosting

While a single default platform exists across the IRMACS labs, an individual researcher's needs might require a specific computing platform. These needs are supported through remote access technologies and virtualization. The IRMACS Centre runs a number of servers (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux) on which researchers can run a wide range of scientific applications. In addition, IRMACS can install software provided by its research members on these servers. This allows research groups to purchase specialized software but not necessitate the need for each research groups to purchase servers to run that software.

Access to these servers and the applications are provided through the use of remote windowing/desktop tools. IRMACS uses Apple Remote Desktop on OS X, Windows Remote Desktop on Windows, and X Windows on Linux to provide remote access to these servers. Users can connect to these servers and take advantage of the wide range of installed software tools from their desktop. Using the IRMACS Virtual Private Network capabilities, users can connect to and use these services from their laptops at any location that provides them with an internet connection.

Infrastructure for Extensible Research Needs (Virtualization)

The base infrastructure is designed so that individual research groups can either provide, install, and maintain their own specialized equipment or utilize IRMACS servers (using virtualization) to run their own servers and services within a protected virtual hosting environment. Such equipment and services can, if desired, share authentication and file-systems with the IRMACS infrastructure. Individual research groups will be able to contract with IRMACS for support of their computing equipment or hire their own staff as they choose. Individual research groups may contract various services from IRMACS to meet their needs: simple backup and network services through to full administration of specialized equipment, for example. Constraints/requirements may be imposed on research groups that operate their own equipment so that efficient and secure operation of the entire facility is maintained.

Advanced Research Services (Data Portals and Scientific Gateways)

In addition to providing traditional computational and storage resources and services to its research commuity, the IRMACS technical team is available for consultation and support of reserach groups that require custom services that hide the complexity of the sophisticated computational infrastructrue of IRMACS, Compute Canada, and other advanced computational resource providers. Through its Science as a Service approach, researchers and/or project groups can contract with IRMACS to provide scientific data portals and scientific gateways, providing a simple to use interafaces to complex data repositories and advanced computational infrastructrue.

Technical Support

If you have any technical questions, contact the IRMACS Centre.