Advanced Research Computing

Information is being generated from every imaginable activity and comes at us constantly from all corners of the earth.

As the move to open data accelerates, as health and research data grow exponentially and as the shift to convergence science increases rapidly, so does the need to move quickly with sophisticated data management plans, curated to enable data access while protecting privacy and security. There are many benefits of advanced research computing for Ontario.

While collecting data is important, understanding its significance and how to use it is where discoveries lie. Big data is data that is too complex to be processed by standard computers. For example the desktop may not have enough memory or may take too long. That is where advanced research computing comes in.

Advanced research computing includes access to High Performance Computing (supercomputers), cloud, data storage and management, networking and visualization to help solve complex problems.

But advanced computing offers much more than just hardware, users also have access to the highly trained scientific and technical people who support the systems that are critical for researchers.

Click here to find out about advanced research computing resources available through Compute Ontario’s consortia.

Benefits of ARC for Ontario

Interpreting big data using advanced computing capabilities is transforming how we conduct research, make products, and deliver services. It involves gathering, processing and disseminating massive amounts of data – impossible to do in the past – and translating it into usable information. For example, advanced research computing can help researchers determine a person’s risk for developing certain diseases, improve healthcare outcomes for premature babies, and boost farm operations to create positive environmental impacts.

There are many other benefits of supporting Advanced Research Computing in Ontario:

  • Making Ontario research institutions and researchers more competitive internationally including areas such as genomic, neuroscience and biomedical research
  • Enhancing competitiveness of sectors that are key to Ontario’s prosperity: advanced manufacturing, mining, digital media, screen industries, financial services, agriculture, transportation
  • Providing a critical recruitment and retention tool for research facilities, as well as opportunities for training of Highly Qualified Personnel

High Performance Computing in Ontario

High Performance Computing or supercomputing, uses the largest computers available to tackle the biggest problems facing science, society or industry. High Performance Computing typically involves computationally intense workloads, such as large and complex simulation models or extremely large data sets. Super computers run by Compute Ontario’s consortia help power applications that includes global climate simulations, astrophysics and astronomy, physics, chemistry, material science, engineering, biomedical sciences and genomics. Economists studying the stock market model the global effects of capital flow. Atmospheric scientists analyze global weather patterns. Psychologists model the brain and human memory. Bio-technologists and computational chemists design complex molecules for innovative new drugs. Engineers model blood flow in artificial hearts. This all represents complex research that requires the analysis of petabytes of data and intricate mathematical calculations that would take years to perform on even the most sophisticated desktop computer. Using our consortia’s High Performance Computing systems, researchers can do these calculations in weeks, days or even hours. Find out more about our consortia and how to access our resources.

Our Compute Power - Expanding Our Capacity

As part of its $75 Million advanced computing and big data strategy, Ontario is providing funding to install two new hardware platforms at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo with a $20.5 million investment through the Ontario Research Fund. This will be the first major upgrade to Ontario’s advance research computing infrastructure since 2007.

Impact of Convergence Science

Advances in technology and within scientific disciplines are occurring rapidly. Increasingly historically distinct scientific disciplines, technology and information are coming together as one, forming the launching pad to create something new. This phenomenon, known as convergence science, represents a fundamental shift in the way in which research is being carried out and is considered necessary for innovation.

Achieving success in this emerging domain will require increased collaboration across the research sector to ensure that thought and innovation activities originating out of our universities and colleges are data driven. It will mean leading and coordinating new opportunities to educate and expand access to highly qualified personnel; individuals who are skilled in using complex computer systems, newly developed technologies and software. It means supporting the development of pathways that lead to new jobs, industries and products for an economically competitive Ontario. It will require Ontario’s research community to increasingly adopt advanced research computing or simply put, super computers, as a tool to enable research.

Success Stories from ARC

Ontario’s future prosperity is critically dependent on Advanced Research Computing in both the public and private sectors. And yet, because of its technical complexity, this is an area that is difficult for most people to understand.

We hope that by providing examples of our consortia’s work, we will help to de-mystify advanced research computing. We also hope that you will share our excitement about the Ontario-based innovations and discoveries that are having an impact world-wide.

  • Carolyn McGregor’s Artemis Project relies on sophisticated real-time analytics to help save the lives of premature babies. Each of these lives saved is an individual that may have been lost to our society had it not been for Dr. McGregor’s work and the computational infrastructure which enabled it. Continue reading.
  • Compute Ontario’s Chair helps develop a blood test for concussions – Compute Ontario’s Chair, Dr. Mark Daley, Doug Fraser, and fellow medical researchers in London have contributed to developing the most accurate concussion test in the world, with over 90% accuracy. The team also relied on SHARCNET for components of the testing. Continue reading