Note: Most of the old FAQ entries have been removed as they are now covered at the Compute Canada level: https://docs.computecanada.ca/wiki/Frequently_Asked_Questions Some of the information on this page was moved to the Legacy Systems page.
- 1 About SHARCNET
- 2 Getting an Account with SHARCNET and Related Issues
- 3 Getting Help
- 3.1 I have encountered a problem while using a Compute Canada/SHARCNET system and need help, who should I talk to?
- 3.2 How long should I expect to wait for support?
- 3.3 Compute Canada Problem Ticket System
- 3.4 I am new to parallel programming, where can I find quick references at SHARCNET?
- 3.5 I am new to parallel programming, can you help me get started with my project?
- 3.6 Can you install a package on a cluster for me?
- 3.7 I am in a process of purchasing computer equipment for my research, would you be able to provide technical advice on that?
- 3.8 Does SHARCNET provide any training on programming and using the systems?
- 3.9 Attending SHARCNET Webinars
- 3.10 Unsubscribing from our mailing lists
- 4 Research at SHARCNET
- 4.1 I have a research project I would like to collaborate on with SHARCNET, who should I talk to?
- 4.2 How can I contribute compute resources to SHARCNET so that other researchers can share it?
- 4.3 I do not know much about computation, nor is it my research interest. But I am interested in getting my research done faster with the help of the high performance computing technology. In other words, I do not care about the process and mechanism, but only the final results. Can SHARCNET provide this type of help?
- 4.4 I need access to more CPU cores or storage than are available by default, what programs exist to support demanding computation?
- 4.5 I heard SHARCNET offers fellowships, where can I get more information?
- 4.6 I would like to do some research at SHARCNET as a visiting scholar, how should I apply?
- 4.7 I would like to send my students to SHARCNET to do some work for me. How should I proceed?
- 5 Contacting SHARCNET
- 6 How to Acknowledge SHARCNET in Publications
- 7 What types of research programs / support are provided to the research community?
What is SHARCNET?
SHARCNET stands for Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network. Established in 2000, SHARCNET is the largest high performance computing consortium in Canada, involving 18 universities and colleges across southern, central and northern Ontario.
SHARCNET is a member consortium in the Compute/Calcul Canada national HPC platform.
Where is SHARCNET?
The main office of SHARCNET is located in the Western Science Centre at The University of Western Ontario. The SHARCNET high performance clusters are installed at a number of the member institutions in the consortium and operated by SHARCNET staff across different sites.
What does SHARCNET have?
The primary SHARCNET compute system is the Graham heterogeneous cluster located at the University of Waterloo. It is named after Wes Graham, the first director of the Computing Centre at Waterloo. It consists of 36,160 cores and 320 GPU devices, spread across 1,127 nodes of different configurations.
What can I do with SHARCNET?
If you have a program that takes months to run on your PC, you could probably run it within a few hours using hundreds of processors on the SHARCNET clusters, provided your program is inherently parallelisable. If you have hundreds or thousands of test cases to run through on your PC or computers in your lab, then with hundreds of processors running those cases independently will significantly reduce your test cycles .
If you have used beowulf clusters made of commodity PCs, you may notice a performance improvement on SHARCNET clusters which have high-speed Infiniband interconnects, as well as SHARCNET machines which have large amounts of memory. Also, SHARCNET clusters themselves are connected through a dedicated, private connection over the Ontario Research Innovation Optical Network (ORION).
If you have access to other super computing facilities at other places and you wish to share your ideas with us and SHARCNET users, please contact us. Together we can make SHARCNET better.
Who is running SHARCNET?
The daily operation and development of SHARCNET computational facilities is managed by a group of highly qualified system administrators. In addition, we have a team of high performance technical computing consultants, who are responsible for technical support on libraries, programming and application analysis.
How do I contact SHARCNET?
For technical inquiries, you may send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact your local system administrator or HPC specialist. For general inquiries, you may contact the SHARCNET main office.
Getting an Account with SHARCNET and Related Issues
To use SHARCNET (and also Compute Canada) facilities one has to apply for a Compute Canada account.
I have encountered a problem while using a Compute Canada/SHARCNET system and need help, who should I talk to?
If you have access to the Internet, we encourage you to use the problem ticketing system (described in detail below) . This is the most efficient way of reporting a problem as it minimizes email traffic and will likely result in you receiving a faster response than through other channels.
You are also welcome to contact system administrators and/or high performance technical computing consultants at any time. You may find their contact information on the directory page.
How long should I expect to wait for support?
Unfortunately Compute Canada/SHARCNET does not have adequate funding to provide support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. User support and system monitoring is limited to regular business hours: there is no official support on weekends or holidays, or outside 9:00 - 17:00 EST .
Please note that this includes monitoring of our systems and operations, so typically when there are problems overnight or on weekends/holidays system notices will not be posted until the next business day.
Compute Canada Problem Ticket System
What is a "problem ticket system"?
This is a system that allows anyone with a Compute Canada account to start a persistent email thread that is referred to as a "problem ticket". When a user submits a new ticket it will be brought to the attention of an appropriate and available Compute Canada/SHARCNET staff member for resolution.
You can interact with the ticket system entirely via email. There is also a web interface to see tickets you have submitted in the past.
What do I need to specify in a ticket ?
To help us address your question faster, please try to do the following when submitting a ticket:
- specify which of our systems is involved
- if the problem pertains to a job, then report the jobid associated with the job; this is an integer that is returned by the scheduler when you submit the job
- report the exact commands necessary to duplicate the problem, as well as any error output that helps identify the problem; if relevant, this should include how the code is compiled, how the job is submitted, and/or anything else you are doing from the command line relating to the problem
- if you'd like for a particular staff member to be aware of the ticket, mention them
How do I submit a ticket?
In general, you can submit a new ticket by emailing email@example.com with the email address associated with your Compute Canada account. If you are using another email address, please provide your full name, your Compute Canada default username (if available) and your university or institution.
If you like, you can also target your inquiry more specifically, by using the following addresses to submit your ticket:
- firstname.lastname@example.org - questions specific to SHARCNET, for example relating to older SHARCNET systems such as orca
- email@example.com -- Questions about Globus file transfer services
- firstname.lastname@example.org -- Questions about using Compute Canada cloud resources
- email@example.com -- Questions about Compute Canada accounts
- firstname.lastname@example.org -- Questions about Compute Canada account renewals
I am new to parallel programming, where can I find quick references at SHARCNET?
SHARCNET has a number of training modules on parallel programming using MPI, OpenMP, pthreads and other frameworks. Each of these modules has working examples that are designed to be easy to understand while illustrating basic concepts. You may find these along with copies of slides from related presentations and links to external resources on the Main Page of this training/help site.
I am new to parallel programming, can you help me get started with my project?
Absolutely. We will be glad to help you from planning the project, architecting your application programs with appropriate algorithms and choosing efficient tools to solve associated numerical problems to debugging and analyzing your code. We will do our best to help you speed up research. If your programming project would involve a significant staff time, you should consider applying for Dedicated Programming support. (We run the competition annually; see https://www.sharcnet.ca/my/research/programming).
Can you install a package on a cluster for me?
Certainly. We suggest you make the request by sending e-mail to email@example.com with the specific request.
I am in a process of purchasing computer equipment for my research, would you be able to provide technical advice on that?
If you tell us what you want, we may be able to help you out.
Does SHARCNET provide any training on programming and using the systems?
Yes. SHARCNET provides workshops on specific topics from time to time and offers courses at some sites. Every summer (usually late May to early June), SHARCNET holds an annual HPC Summer School with a variety of in-depth, hands-on workshops. Many materials from past workshops/presentations can be found on the SHARCNET's web portal.
SHARCNET also offers a series of online seminars (so-called "General interest webinars"), typically delivered every second Wednesday at lunch time. These are announced via the SHARCNET events mailing list and one can see the schedule at the SHARCNET event calendar. Past seminars are recorded and posted on our youtube channel. A full listing of the past webinars is available on the Online Seminars page.
Attending SHARCNET Webinars
SHARCNET makes a number of seminar events available online (New User Webinar, general interest talks, etc.) using Zoom. Zoom can be used by either installing an app (available for Windows, Mac, Linux etc), or running it in a browser (no installation required). A (free) Zoom account is required for attending our webinars. Since July 2020 our webinars require registration. The registration link is provided on the event page in our Events calendar, https://www.sharcnet.ca/my/news/calendar .
Please note that if your device has a microphone (highly recommended) and/or webcam, they will be used by Zoom to transmit your audio and video to all seminar participants. They are normally off by default, but you can enable them by clicking on a corresponding button at the bottom of your Zoom window - but only when allowed by the host. Normally we do not allow attendees to use their mikes during the webinar, but we have special time for questions and answers at the end of each webinar when the mikes can be enabled. Generally, please keep your mike muted (and webcam disabled) unless you want to ask a question.
We normally record our seminars, and make them available to all SHARCNET users. The recordings are posted on our youtube channel, http://youtube.sharcnet.ca . The links to the video recordings, slides and abstracts can be found on our online seminars page.
Please note that times for our webinars are for the Eastern Time (EST/EDT) zone.
Unsubscribing from our mailing lists
To remove yourself from our Events mailing list, please follow these instructions:
- Go to https://mail.sharcnet.ca/mailman/listinfo/events (you can find this link at
the bottom of our Events emails);
- At the bottom of that page, enter your email into empty field, and press the button
"Unsubscribe or edit options";
- On the next page, click on the "Unsubscribe" button;
- You will receive a confirmation email; click on the link there to finalize the removal
Research at SHARCNET
I have a research project I would like to collaborate on with SHARCNET, who should I talk to?
Most people's research is "bursty" - there are usually sparse periods of time when some computation is urgently needed, and other periods when there is less demand. One problem with this is that if you purchase the equipment you need to meet your "burst" needs, it'll probably sit, underutilized, during other times.
An alternative is to donate control of this equipment to SHARCNET, and let us arrange for other users to use it when you are not. We prefer to be involved in the selection and configuration of such equipment. Our promise to contributors is that as much as possible, they should obtain as much benefit from the cluster as if it were not shared. Owners get preferential access. Naturally, owners are also able to burst to higher peak usage, since their equipment has been pooled with other contributions. (Technically, SHARCNET cannot itself own such equipment — it remains owned by the institution in question, and will be returned to the contributor upon request.) If you think this model will also work for you and you would like to contribute your computational resource to help the research community at SHARCNET, you can contact us for such arrangement.
I do not know much about computation, nor is it my research interest. But I am interested in getting my research done faster with the help of the high performance computing technology. In other words, I do not care about the process and mechanism, but only the final results. Can SHARCNET provide this type of help?
We will be happy to bring the technology of high performance computing to you to accelerate your research, if at all possible. If you would like to discuss your plan with us, please feel free to contact our high performance computing specialists. They will be happy to listen to your needs and are ready to provide appropriate suggestions and assistance.
I need access to more CPU cores or storage than are available by default, what programs exist to support demanding computation?
SHARCNET participates in the Compute Canada NRAC (National Resource Allocation Competition) and provides a continual competition for groups that require more than the default level of access to our resources. Please see Dedicated Resources for further information.
I heard SHARCNET offers fellowships, where can I get more information?
SHARCNET no longer actively runs a fellowship program. You may find information regarding past fellowships and other dedicated resource opportunities on the Research Fellowships page of the web portal.
I would like to do some research at SHARCNET as a visiting scholar, how should I apply?
In general, you will need to find a hosting department or a person affiliated with one of the SHARCNET institutions. You may also contact us directly for more specific information.
I would like to send my students to SHARCNET to do some work for me. How should I proceed?
How do I contact SHARCNET for research, academic exchanges, and technical issues?
Please contact SHARCNET head office.
How do I contact SHARCNET for business development, education and other issues?
Please contact SHARCNET head office.
How do I contact a specific staff member at SHARCNET?
See staff directory for contact information.
How to Acknowledge SHARCNET in Publications
How do I acknowledge SHARCNET in my publications?
We recommend one cite the following:
This work was made possible by the facilities of the Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET:www.sharcnet.ca) and Compute/Calcul Canada.
I've seen different spellings of the name, what is the standard spelling of SHARCNET?
We suggest the spelling SHARCNET, all in upper case.
What types of research programs / support are provided to the research community?
Our overall intent is to provide support that can both respond to the range of needs that the user community presents and help to increase the sophistication of the community and enable new and larger-in-scope applications making use of SHARCNET's HPC facilities. The range of support can perhaps best be understood in terms of a pyramid:
At the apex of the pyramid, SHARCNET supports a small number of projects with dedicated programmer support. The intent is to enable projects that will have a lasting impact and may lead to a "step change" in the way research is done at SHARCNET. Inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional projects are particularly welcomed. For the latest information about the program, including application guidelines, please see the Programming Competition page in our web portal.
The middle layers of support are provided through a number of initiatives.
- Programming support of more modest duration (several days to one month engagement, usually part time)
- Training on a variety of topics through workshops, seminars and online training materials
- Consultation. This may include user-initiated interactions on particular programs, algorithms, techniques, debugging, optimization etc., as well as unsolicited help to ensure effective use of SHARCNET systems
- Site Leaders play an important role in working with the community to help researchers connect with SHARCNET staff and to obtain appropriate help and support.
The base level of the pyramid handles the very large number of small requests that are essential to keeping the user community working effectively with the infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. Several of these can be answered by this FAQ; many of the issues are presented through the ticketing system. The support is largely problem oriented with each problem being time limited.