The most powerful academic supercomputer in Canada, Cedar, with staff from SFU IT Services' Research Computing Group who helped accomplish this national achievement.

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Canada’s most powerful academic supercomputer will launch at SFU

April 03, 2017
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By Tia O’Grady

This April Simon Fraser University, in partnership with Compute Canada and regional partner WestGrid, will launch a new, advanced research computing (ARC) system, Cedar, at SFU's Burnaby Campus.

One of four new Canadian supercomputing and data centre sites, Cedar will give Canadian researchers access to the latest ARC resources and expertise.

“Cedar will serve many of Canada’s world-class researchers working in diverse fields," 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. The development of this data centre further exemplifies SFU’s vision to be Canada’s engaged university, defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.”

Compute Canada, in partnership with its regional partners and member institutions, is leading this broad transformation of Canada’s national computing platform. Twenty-seven data centres and 50 aging legacy systems across Canada will be consolidated into five to 10 data centres by the end of 2018. Cedar alone has greater computational power than all of Compute Canada’s legacy systems combined. This national platform represents operational cost savings, economies of scale, and most importantly, greater computational storage and cloud for the scientists who depend on these resources to conduct their research.

The full investment in this national computing platform is valued at $75 million, with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and provincial and industry partners.

“For the community of over 11,000 Canadian researchers that we serve today, Cedar and its three sister national systems 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.

“I think we’ll see extraordinary advances in artificial intelligence, green technology, new materials and advanced products, disease prevention and cures, and much more.”

In mid-April, SFU, Compute Canada and WestGrid are hosting an exclusive launch event to highlight ARC's  fundamental role in Canadian research and celebrate Cedar's launch. It will be held at SFU Burnaby’s Water Tower Building, where the new state-of-the-art data centre is located. The event will begin with a formal speaking program, followed by a reception as well as the opportunity to speak with Canadian researchers—both from SFU and other universities—showcasing their ARC-enabled research. Tours of the new data centre will also be available.

Mark Roman, SFU’s chief information officer, sums up the importance of this national achievement that is making history:

“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.”