WestGrid at the University of Manitoba

The WestGrid building is rising among the Buller, Armes, Machray Hall and Duff Roblin buildings

Posted 9 September 2009
(Information for this article was adapted from previous postings by:
Frank Nolen, 3 January 2007 and Sean Moore, 18 March 2009)

In April 2006, The Western Canada Research Computing Grid (WestGrid) expanded to include all universities in the four western provinces.  WestGrid is now the largest of the seven high performance computing (HPC) resource providers in Canada.  It was the first resource provider in Canada to adopt a grid-enabled system for its HPC, advanced collaboration and scientific visualization resources.

WestGrid has grown considerably since its inception, but its vision remains the same:  "to enable researchers across western Canada to take advantage of WestGrid's powerful tools to push the bounds of discovery and collaborate with colleagues around the world" (WestGrid Annual Report, 2008).  Since 2002, it has supported 582 projects with almost 1,500 users in disciplines ranging from science to engineering and the humanities.

WestGrid facilities are designated for Canadian researchers or those collaborating on Canadian research projects.  In general, any academic researcher from a Canadian research institution with significant high performance computing requirements to support his or her research may apply for an account on WestGrid. 

HPC provides an integrated computing environment used for solving large-scale computationally demanding problems in science, engineering, and business.  Newly emerging areas of HPC applications include medical sciences, transportation, financial operations, and advanced human-computer interfaces such as virtual reality. 

The University of Manitoba is a major contributor in the expanded WestGrid, and will be the location of a large capability cluster accessible to all researchers within WestGrid and eventually to researchers across Canada.  Professor Byron Southern, Physics & Astronomy, is the principal investigator and is currently Chair of the WestGrid Executive Committee.  Professor Peter Graham, Associate Dean (Research) Science, is a member of the WestGrid Planning Committee which oversees equipment purchases across all WestGrid institutions.  David Wyatt, Information Services and Technology, is the Manitoba site lead responsible for systems administration, and Jonathan Aronsson, Computer Science, is a technical analyst providing user support.  More information about HPC for researchers and graduate students can be found at www.umanitoba.ca/computing/hpc/ where a handbook is available for download.

As part of the continuing WestGrid development, the University of Manitoba is building a new $2.6 million facility to house approximately $4 million of computer equipment - some of the most powerful computers in Canada.  Construction of the new facility is currently underway in the area enclosed by the Buller, Armes, Machray Hall and Duff Roblin buildings and is funded by contributions from Western Economic  Diversification (WD) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).   The equipment for the facility will be funded through CFI and Manitoba Research and Innovation Fund (MRIF).

The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced the Western Diversification Program funding for the HPC facility at a press conference in March, 2009.

"Advances in science and technology are essential to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's economy," said Minister Yelich. "By investing in projects like the High Performance Computing facility, the Government is doing its part to ensure that Canada is well positioned for success in today's global economy."

"The University of Manitoba is thrilled to be home to the new High Performance Computing facility," said Dr. David Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba. "We take our role as a research, education and innovation leader in the community very seriously.  This new facility is further proof of that commitment."

Western Economic Diversification Canada in partnership with the provinces, industry associations, and communities promotes the development and diversification of the western economy, coordinates federal economic activities in the West and represents the interests of western Canadians in national decision-making.