www.westgrid.caWestGrid News: December 2016

Showcasing Canadian research & innovation to the world

Message from Lindsay Sill, WestGrid's Executive Director

Last month, WestGrid joined Compute Canada at SC’16 to showcase our nation’s research, innovation, and expertise in advanced research computing. The Canadian Pavilion highlighted Compute Canada’s updated technology plan for its four new national sites, and featured displays promoting its national research data management (RDM) project, its federated elastic cloud computing service, and one of the fastest long-distance academic big data transfers in Canada. For some fun, we had Canadian-themed photo booth props (like the raccoon hat I'm modelling in the photo to the right) and handed out Compute Canada branded toques.

Our region had a strong presence at the event with Ryan Enge from the University of Victoria representing the Compute Canada Cloud team, and Jason Hlady, Todd Trann, and Robert Wagner from the University of Saskatchewan representing the RDM project.

The networking and learning opportunities at these kinds of events are invaluable, and Ryan was able to make some excellent connections with other innovators in cloud. Similarly, Todd fielded a number of questions from delegates interested in the RDM project’s federated research data repository (FRDR), of which he’s the lead developer. Once finished, this RDM technology could provide the basis of a federated and national service to help organize, preserve, discover, and reuse research data – something other countries may be keen to replicate!

Over the course of my week at SC’16, three key themes emerged for me. First, the need for diversity in the workplace was a hot topic this year, with champions calling for greater engagement and inclusion of women and minorities in HPC. I was pleased to see Women in HPC (WHPC) and its Director and co-Founder Toni Collis recognized with HPCwire Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards for all the work they’ve done in promoting diversity.

Second, we hosted visits from groups of local high school students at the Compute Canada booth, and for me that reinforced the need for encouraging more people to choose careers in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). Whether it’s youth just starting out or adults ready for a change, there is an incredible demand for highly qualified personnel (HQP) across all STEM sectors, disciplines, and industries.

Lastly, while I already knew our country was a great place to call home, I was surprised at the number of “How do I immigrate to Canada?” questions I received at the booth this year. As word spreads that Canada is a desirable place to live, work and do research, I foresee this leading to a valuable brain gain for our country, which I hope we can support. As Compute Canada CEO Mark Dietrich noted in a recent Compute Canada blog post, it is critical that we continue to invest in advanced research computing because it is essential infrastructure for innovation.

Congratulations to the entire team of Compute Canada and regional staff who attended SC’16 -- I think we did an excellent job of showcasing Canada to the world!

Object Storage

A new storage service will be coming online as part of Compute Canada's national platform renewal. Object storage is an increasingly popular data management approach that pairs data sets with attached descriptive metadata and unique identifiers. The potential use cases for this type of storage span all disciplines, and we expect researchers in a range of fields – from environmental monitoring to life sciences to digital humanities – to use this new service. Want to know more? We've compiled a brief overview of the benefits and capabilities of object storage.


New System Updates

Compute Canada has released a status report of its national platform renewal. The November 2016 Technology Briefing includes progress updates on the following items:

• Stage 1 Computational Systems

• National Data Cyberinfrastructure

• Networking upgrades

• Status and planning for Stage 2 Investments

• Future needs of the Canadian ARC community


Upcoming Events

December 08
WestGrid Office Hours:
Bioinformatics Edition

December 12
Mini Symposium:
Bioinformatics for Infectious Disease Control

December 15
VanBUG Seminar:
Rob Beiko, Dalhousie University

December 24 - January 2
Holiday Break
During this time, WestGrid Support will respond to emails on a best-effort basis. Check our Live Status page for ongoing system updates.


Changing Computing One Atom at a Time

Robert Wolkow, University of Alberta

Call it peak computing. In the vein of peak oil, it seems the traditional semiconductor is about to encounter a similar experience. In short, it’s reaching a point of saturation whereby, in less than a decade, there won’t be a way to make the increasingly smaller and faster technology we’ve become accustomed to having at our fingertips.

As University of Alberta physicist Robert Wolkow describes it, “the physical limits of the materials are emerging and there’s no foreseeable way to achieve smaller, faster, cheaper technological advances.”

He said there are foreseeable ways to make smaller, faster, more expensive, and there will be customers for that, but it will be companies such as Google and not a mass consumer audience that can afford such luxuries.   
(Profile provided by Compute Canada)
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