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History of SHARCNET

Prior to the first SHARCNET project, the lack of competitive high performance computing programs and services was seen by a critical mass of researchers as a failure in Canada. Thus, a move and decision was made by a group of researchers to address this through a joint grant application, involving a number of institutions in Southwestern Ontario. This led to the creation of SHARCNET. In the face of rapid hardware obsolescence for HPC hardware, SHARCNET's key objective was to build an "HPC culture" in Ontario and Canada: a community of skilled researchers which would support the growing demands in academia and the private sector for HPC and would generate the critical mass of users to ensure long-term support/provision of leading hardware resources. SHARCNET aimed to directly target researchers with large problems which could not otherwise be contemplated.

Formally established in June, 2001, SHARCNET is the culmination of the vision of several faculty from McMaster University, The University of Western Ontario, and the University of Guelph. These individuals developed the successful grant applications to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) and the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF) to create SHARCNET. These funds resulted in the installation of massively parallel computing systems across the SHARCNET institutions, as well as the research programs (Chairs and Fellowships), which were the first among other HPC centres in Canada. Further grant applications to CFI and OIT, awarded in 2004, allowed SHARCNET to significantly upgrade and expand its infrastructure.

SHARCNET was originally founded with seven institutions: McMaster University, The University of Western Ontario, University of Guelph, University of Windsor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Fanshawe College and Sheridan College. The SHARCNET partnership was expanded in June 2003 to include the University of Waterloo, Brock University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. In December 2005, SHARCNET expanded the partnership again, with the addition of Trent University, Laurentian University and Lakehead University. In March 2006, Perimeter Institute and the Ontario College of Art & Design were added to the consortium. In 2008, Nipissing University joined SHARCNET, followed by Conestoga College in 2014, for a total of 18 academic partners (14 universities, 3 colleges and a research institute). Note that all but one of Ontario's 21 universities are part of one of the three provincial HPC consortia.

In addition to its academic partners, SHARCNET's success wouldn't be possible without its industrial partners, most notably the generous financial contributions of Hewlett Packard (formerly Compaq Canada). SHARCNET's private sector partners also include: Platform Computing, Bell Canada, Nortel Networks, Quadrics Supercomputing World, Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION) and Silicon Graphics.