Summer 2003, Vol. 1, Issue 2

in this issue:

We will continue to build upon the fundamental values that have driven SHARCNET’s success:
Shared resources; Hierarchical computing clusters; leading Academic Research; and a Computing Network that is among the elite in the world.

The SHARCNET Board of Directors looks forward to the challenges and successes ahead.

Nils O. Petersen, Chair
SHARCNET Board of Governors
Vice-President, Research
The University of Western Ontario


    At the speed of light: New optical connection could position SHARCNET among top 50 in the world    

When SHARCNET was formally launched in June 2001, our vision was to establish a world-leading, multi-university and college, interdisciplinary institute with an active academic-industry partnership enabling forefront computation research in critical areas of science, engineering, and business. We are achieving that vision, and SHARCNET is having a significant impact on the speed at which research is conducted in Ontario, and the quality of said research.

SHARCNET provides a cost-effective platform for the creation and sustained growth of HPC in Ontario, and is part of a larger strategy to establish Canada as a world-class HPC centre. What makes SHARCNET unique is its consortium of equal institutional partners, who alone, could not afford to establish the technical and human infrastructure provided by SHARCNET.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the University of Waterloo, Brock University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, who participated in our March proposal to the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF). These institutions, along with York University, are also part of our recent proposal to the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). We look forward to welcoming these institutions as new SHARCNET consortium members in the near future.

As we move ahead, SHARCNET will increase its computational capacity, expand the services we provide to researchers, incorporate new partners (both academic and industrial), and realize our vision of establishing of a world-leading computational grid in Ontario.

With our connection to the ORION network, SHARCNET researchers will have the opportunity to use the combined power of our three main computational sites to enhance their already innovative, globally-competitive research.

I am proud to be a part of this team as we move ahead into the future of high performance computing.

Carmen Gicante, P.Eng, MBA
Executive Director,



Itanium2 and Xeon clusters added to the SHARCNET arsena
by Western System Administrator, Gary Molenkamp


In 2002, the alpha-based SHARCNET clusters using the Quadrics interconnect showed high system usage and long waiting times within the queuing system for applications requiring large amount of parallel computing resources. Monitoring of the type of applications being run also demonstrated that there was a large percentage of latency tolerant applications being run on the systems designed for these clusters. These applications were better suited for an Ethernet-based interconnect environment, and based on the quantity of these application runs, there was a demonstrated need for new computational infrastructure.

Two new clusters were added to the SHARCNET computing capabilities: a 128 Itanium 2 processor cluster located at University of Western Ontario, and a 64 processor Xeon cluster located at McMaster University. The Itanium 2 cluster is composed of 64 dual processor HP rx2600 servers running at 900Mhz. Each system has 1 Gb of ram and a Gigabit Ethernet interconnect. The new Xeon cluster has 32 dual processor Xeons running at 2.4Ghz, with 1Gb or 2Gb of RAM per system and a 100 Mb Ethernet interconnect. Both clusters use Linux based OS for simple integration with existing SHARCNET clusters. The Itanium 2 cluster uses the LSF queuing system that is available on the alpha based clusters to allow for the multi-cluster environment and to duplicate the working environment for researchers.

With these two new clusters added to the arsenal of SHARCNET's computational resources, queue wait times have been reduced for all applications, and those researchers needing large amounts of parallel computation power do not have to wait as long for resources as they would have had to wait in the past. At the same time, researchers have the opportunity to migrate their existing applications to the Itanium 2 architecture for those still needing 64 bit processing, and to the Xeon architecture for 32 bit performance.