Posted on July 26: $50M SHARCNET investment takes McMaster to the next level

July 26, 2004

Because of a $50-million injection into the Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET), McMaster researchers will probe the structure of matter at nano-scales -- making McMaster one of the most powerful research centers in the world.

"The new expansion of SHARCNET to its current state will enable new state-of-the-art simulations that allow us to probe the structure of matter at the nanometer (billionth of a meter) and micrometer (millionth of a meter) scales, linking the properties of that world to functionality of materials on the scale of world we live in," says Nikolas Provatas, McMaster professor of engineering and materials science. "This emerging area, known as computational materials science promises to create innovations in everything from stronger, light weight alloys for automotive and aerospace applications, to new electronic materials to be used in future computers and electronic devices."

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has invested $19.3M, with matching funds from the Ontario government and an additional $10M from SHARCNET's institutional and private sector partners.

"SHARCNET on the McMaster campus has been very successful in establishing a very active computational research environment across many different departments," says Erik Sorensen, McMaster professor of physics and astronomy. "The new funding not only secures this environment for the foreseeable future but will also allows to take it to the next level."

He adds the underlying hardware infrastructure needs to be updated on a regular basis. "The new funding means McMaster should be seeing the arrival of state of the art parallel facilities within the next year."

SHARCNET is a multi-institutional High Performance Computing (HPC) network that spans 11 academic institutions in south central Ontario. It is anticipated that once fully installed, the SHARCNET systems will be the most powerful in Canada and that SHARCNET will have at least one system within the top 70 in the world (according supercomputers list). In addition, SHARCNET will have data storage facilities that are the equivalent of tens of thousands of today's top-of-the-line personal computers and provide facilities that can visualize enormous sets of data, like the formation of stars and planets. It will also include affiliations with some of the province's leading research centres, including the Robarts Research Institute, Perimeter Institute, and Fields Institute.

"In just under four years of operation, SHARCNET has attracted a world-leading academic community," says SHARCNET scientific director Hugh Couchman, a McMaster physics and astronomy professor. "In this next evolution, SHARCNET will provide researchers with HPC facilities that are second to none in Canada and accelerate the production of results which are of benefit to our economy, health, environment, scientific knowledge and culture."

The expansion is expected to support breakthroughs in such areas as human genomics, environmental protection, financial risk management, the containment of infectious human and animal diseases, and the development nano-scale electronic devices.