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Vol 38  No 5
November 3, 2005


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Shrinking geography and expanding the knowledge base

By Deborah Inkpen

Dr. Chris Loomis said ACEnet will be a “computational power grid of enormous capacity.”

Building Atlantic Canada’s largest high-performance computing network takes the efforts of a lot of people. But ACEnet, the consortium that links researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University, the University of Prince Edward Island, Mount Allison University, University of New Brunswick, Saint Mary’s University, and St. Francis Xavier University, is hoping to significantly boost Atlantic Canada’s research, development, and commercialization capabilities by building the network.

Last year the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) awarded almost $10 million to launch ACEnet. ACEnet’s vendor partner, Sun Microsystems will invest up to $5 million in people and knowledge development in this region. Sun Microsystems will deliver the technology platform for ACEnet and will provide the professional services which will help construct this complicated venture. In addition to CFI and Sun, ACEnet is supported by the Governments of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and, as a pan-Atlantic Canada project, ACOA is also a major stakeholder.

“The primary role of ACEnet is to provide Atlantic Canada’s researchers with high performance computing resources and leading edge collaboration tools, so they are equipped to conduct world-class research,” said Dr. Robert Deupree, principal investigator for ACEnet. “We chose Sun Microsystems to deliver our technology platform because of the company’s obvious technological strengths, its willingness to work with us as a key partner, and deep understanding of the needs of the research community.”

As Atlantic Canada’s first fully distributed computational grid, ACEnet links personnel, shares computing resources and brings together multi-university research teams. ACEnet will provide a new network of collaboration between researchers by allowing them to interact in real time.

The Sun Microsystems infrastructure will be located at St. Francis Xavier University, Saint Mary’s University, the University of New Brunswick and Memorial University of Newfoundland, and made available to partner organizations and researchers at all universities in the region. Using Sun Control Station software for system management, ACEnet can deliver a true utility computing model for high performance computing services. The high-availability grid helps ensure researchers have access to compute cycles when they need them, and the entire grid is kept at maximum usage.

“Atlantic Canada is challenged by the sheer size of its geography, and with the ACEnet network in place, physical separation will no longer be a barrier to the sharing of ideas, a concept near and dear to Sun,” according to Stéphane Boisvert, president, Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc.

ACEnet will be a service for and have connections with a wide range of research, including oil and gas, marine engineering, pharmaceuticals, underwater vehicles, physics, physical oceanography and computer science. ACEnet’s grid will allow the region’s researchers to maximize their work, and attract high caliber, leading edge projects and researchers to Atlantic Canada.

“ACEnet will create and operate HPC facilities to rival the best in Canada and the world. These facilities will be interconnected by high-speed networks, allowing them to behave as a single, regionally-distributed computational power grid of enormous capacity,” said Dr. Chris Loomis, VP of Research at Memorial University. “ACEnet will also have sophisticated video-teleconferencing facilities to bind together our geographically dispersed research communities.”

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