posted on Dec. 21: Computational research initiative connects McMaster with 6 southwestern Ontario universities, colleges


SHARC-Net, the Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computer Network, will receive more than $8 million from the Ontario government, Jim Wilson, minister of energy, science and technology announced this week.

Investment from McMaster and other southwestern Ontario universities including Western, Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier and Windsor as well as Sheridan and Fanshawe colleges, and private-sector partners will bring the total to more than $25 million.

SHARC-Net is a network of 125 computers working in parallel that will be used by researchers to perform high speed calculations.

Hugh Couchman, a professor of physics & astronomy and Gerhard Gerber, vice-president research & international affairs represented the University at the University of Western Ontario in London where the announcement was made.

Couchman said the vision of SHARC-Net is to establish a world-leading, multi-university, interdisciplinary institute for computational research in areas such as science, engineering and business.

Computational research solves problems using computers as the investigative tool. Couchman said there has been tremendous growth in computing technology during the last 20 years, allowing computation to become an integral part of academic research and industrial problem-solving.

The infrastructure of SHARC-Net will consist of “four large Beowulf clusters” — one at McMaster and Guelph and two at Western. A Beowulf cluster is a networked cluster of commodity workstations configured, through software, to operate as a distributed-memory parallel computer.

The provincial government funding for this project is a combination of money from the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) and the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF).

OIT is a $750-million endowment set up by the government to support research infrastructure and capacity. ORDCF is a 10-year, $550-million commitment to providing researchers with the expert staff they need to undertake leading-edge research and to encourage innovation.