Winter 2003, Vol. 1, Issue 1

in this issue:

But, more than an acronym, SHARCNET embodies what we want to do and how we do it. Our purpose is:

To Share High Performance Computing (HPC) resources between academic institutions, optimizing access, utilization and sustainability of precious and necessary resources.

Establishing a Hierarchical structure of computing clusters to provide the best fit for a wide range of computational challenges.

Supporting the Academic Research mission by providing leading edge research programs in science, social science, engineering, business and medicine, with access to the necessary computing tools and systems.

Creating a Computing Network that allows for transparent sharing and optimal placement of resources, leading to a model for grid computing.

We are very fortunate to have partners who support our vision. The academic partners – Guelph, McMaster, Western, Wilfrid Laurier and Windsor Universities, and Fanshawe and Sheridan Colleges – provide researchers and support. Private sector partners – HP, Bell, Nortel,
Platform Computing, Quadrics Supercomputing World – enthusiastically joined us, and have given critical financial support.

Collectively, we demonstrated to government funding agencies: the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, and the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, that we have outstanding researchers with innovative ideas that will lead to great benefits. Our vision is becoming reality.

Our 15 SHARCNET Research Chairs will bring the best and brightest faculty members and researchers to Southwestern Ontario, using HPC to solve problems in bioinformatics, materials research, financial mathematics, and developing computational tools.

The SHARCNET research fellowships create the opportunity to recruit visiting scholars, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students to support the academic computing-based research programs.

The fact that more than half our resources are dedicated to support the human infrastructure, that we have a dedicated research community driving the projects, that we have recruited outstanding faculty, staff and students to join SHARCNET, and that our partners have provided their support from the outset, has enabled us to get this project up to speed in an incredibly short period of time – from the first CFI Award in February 2000, to full implementation of all programs in 2002.

On behalf of SHARCNET’s Board of Governors, I thank all of you who have contributed to these efforts. I look forward to working with you to make this an enduring vision.

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



  A Hewlett Packard partnership

SHARCNET has achieved a great deal in a surprisingly short period of time. This is because we have been guided by a set of principles and a simple, clear, fundamental vision:

To establish a world-leading, multi-university and college, interdisciplinary institute with an active academic-industry partnership enabling forefront computational research in criticalareas of science, engineering, and business.

These words were chosen with great care. They convey the principles that will allow SHARCNET to succeed and grow. The concept of partnership – sharing resources as equals and enabling world-class research – has allowed SHARCNET to rapidly reach a point where we can document many successes.

In our vision we talk about developing an “active academic-industry partnership.” This is rooted in the belief that no one partner needs to sacrifice its principles. An initial goal to find a win-win arrangement for both the academic and the industrial partners will endure.

The successes we have enjoyed will stand as proof that industry, academia and government can work together to further individual goals, as well as those of SHARCNET. I am very proud of the faith our industrial partners have shown in the future viability o SHARCNET, as evidenced by their continued investment and involvement in the program – in particular HP Canada.

Our vision also talks about our fundamental goal of “enabling forefront computational research”. From the onset, we knew that SHARCNET would need to provide a human infrastructure to complement our High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure. While our facilities are second to none in Canada, I truly believe it is the HPC consultants and systems administrators, and the work they do daily with faculty and students, that sets SHARCNET apart. It is their work that will build the community of well-trained HPC researchers. All of this will lead to long-term benefits for our academic and industrial partners and, ultimately, for the economies of Ontario and Canada.

Allan B. MacIsaac
Acting Executive Director,




A Hewlett Packard partnership


HP Canada is pleased to be SHARCNET’s principal supplier of computing infrastructure.

The organization’s focus, based on distributed clusters of powerful SMP systems, is consistent with HP’s strategy and in keeping with designs that today power many of the most powerful research computing facilities in the world. This focus has resulted in one of the most successful shared computing infrastructures in Canada, which is serving as a model for proposed developments all across Canada.

Furthermore, SHARCNET’s people understand the value of genuine partnership within the IT realm. HP Canada values the feedback provided by SHARCNET’s researchers and support staff, and uses this feedback in designing next-generation product and service offerings. The success of this partnership has resulted in the selection of SHARCNET as a development partner on future products in High Performance Visualization, powering fully immersive simulation environments to allow deeper understanding of areas as diverse as protein folding, high energy physics and geology.

On behalf of HP Canada, I salute the staff and researchers who have made SHARCNET such a success, and look forward to years of further and deeper collaboration.

Glenn Bontje
Business Development Manager – HPTC
Business Critical Systems
Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co.




Health, wealth and SHARCNET
Retirement planning gets boost through shared computing power

By Murray Tong

Health and economic resources are the two key factors in retirement, but they’ve never been linked very well… until now.

Todd Stinebrickner, a University of Western Ontario economics professor, is conducting research on factors that influence people to retire – and providing policy makers with new, pertinent information for making decisions about social security.

Collaborating with Prof. John Bound of the University of Michigan and Dr. Tim Waidmann of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., Stinebrickner is developing a comprehensive model that identifies reasons why people retire. It draws relationships between these reasons and provides a new understanding of how these combined circumstances can determine decisions about retirement.

SHARCNET is providing a conduit for the researchers to implement the model, and accurately predict the outcomes of social and economic policy changes.

“The model we’ve been working on is complex, and it would not be possible to estimate parameters in this model on other machines,” says Stinebrickner. “SHARCNET is providing the computing power that enables us to estimate models and conduct important policy simulations that weren’t possible before.”

Stinebrickner says past modelling efforts have typically focused on either the effect of health or of financial resources on retirement.

“The two factors are related, so combining them into a single cohesive model is important in understanding how they interact to influence retirement decisions and the effects of new policies – such as changing the age of eligibility for social security,” he says.

However, the estimation of such models is extremely time-sensitive and has constrained researchers working with economic models in the past. SHARCNET addresses this problem directly.

“With SHARCNET, we can model how much one factor picks up the effects of the other, and we can create a much more cohesive, more realistic model for retirement decisions than would otherwise be possible,” says Stinebrickner.

This research is sponsored by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund.