Major Alberta information infrastructure
Calgary, AB – Two new major resources to aid Alberta’s
race for world-class information infrastructure are being
launched today at the University of Calgary, in a ceremony
attended by Canada’s and Alberta’s information technology
“This joint inauguration of NeteraNet, one of the world’s
most advanced high-speed networks, along with a powerful
high performance computing facility connected to it, marks
a significant achievement for Alberta,” according to Fred
Stewart, Chair of Netera Alliance, Alberta’s ad-vanced
Internet organization involved in today’s launch and demonstration.
NeteraNet is Alberta’s next-generation Internet, connecting
Alberta institutions at gigabit speeds to global research
networks. The related computing facility being launched
is the Compaq Alpha Cluster, a resource connected to the
network that supports new kinds of research involving
intense computational power – climate prediction, medical
visualization and drug modelling, to name a few. This
cluster complements a similar high performance computer
resource, called Aurora Borealis, launched this spring
at the University of Alberta. Both are part of a province-wide
collaborative project called MACI (Multimedia Advanced
Computational Infrastructure) to establish resources at
Alberta’s universities for computation, multimedia and
A demonstration as part of the event will present leading
research at the University of Calgary involving high performance
computing from the areas of kinesiology, computer graphics,
medicine, biology and environmental design. It will also
highlight the capabilities of Alberta’s next-generation
Internet, which far exceeds the speeds known to everyday
users of the Internet.
“Alberta’s initiatives are important advances for the
future of Canada’s economy in the information age,” said
MP Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General
of Canada and Member of Parliament for Edmonton West.
Federal government support for Alberta’s infrastructure
includes an $8 million investment by the Canada Foundation
for Innovation in the MACI project, as well as $1.3 million
for Alberta’s next-generation Internet through CANARIE,
Canada’s national advanced Internet development organization.
The Province of Alberta has contributed $4.7 million to
these information infrastructure projects.
Alberta Minister of Innovation and Science, Dr Lorne Taylor,
is officially launching the new initiatives. “This is
the kind of progress that highlights Alberta’s leading
role in the information age. We know that Alberta attracts
innovators, and these new advances secure a place for
us all in what is rapidly becoming the innovation age,”
Dr Taylor said.
-“ We are pleased to support projects such as MACI, which
demonstrate the kind of vision and energy required for
success in today’s global environment. These new facilities
will also provide a cutting edge research environment
to train young Canadians for the knowledge-based economy,”
said Dr David Strangway, President and CEO of the Canada
Foundation for Innovation. The CFI is an independent,
not-for-profit organization established by the federal
government in 1997 to strengthen the capacity for innovation
in Canadian universities and research institutions.
In addition to Minister Taylor, the launch ceremony at
11 am will include remarks from Carmen Charette, Senior
Vice-President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation,
Programs and Opera-tions; Dr Andrew Bjerring, President
of CANARIE; Dr Robert Church, Chair of the Alberta Science
and Research Authority; David Booth, President of Compaq
Canada; Bernard Dumonceau, VP of Data Communications Services
at TELUS Advanced Communication; Bob Wolfe, President
of Group Telecom; as well as University of Calgary President
Dr Terry White and Interim Vice-President (Research) Dr
UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA CREATES LARGEST
ACADEMIC COMPUTER IN CANADA
(7 December 1999, Calgary, Alberta)
The University of Alberta has just expanded its high
performance computer to be the largest academic computer
"The facilities we are developing will help Alberta
secure a place as a very attractive place to do research,"
according to Dr Jonathan Schaeffer, the University of
Alberta computing science professor responsible for
spearheading the purchase.
The upgrade to the SGI Origin 2000 brings the total
number of processors in the computer to 112, making
it powerful enough to compute calculations and render
complex images in seconds. The worldwide push to develop
faster computers is part of a global impetus to create
infrastructure for a knowledge-based society. Advances
in computing power are also instrumental in attracting
and keeping top researchers on Canadian soil.
"Not only will this new computing power assist Alberta
researchers working in sciences such as math, physics,
chemistry and geology, it will also enable research
with direct social benefits, including biotechnology,
geographical information systems, climate prediction
and research to reduce risk in medicine and industry,"
Dr Schaeffer explains.
Access to the Origin 2000 at the U of A is also available
to researchers outside Alberta through a national sharing
agreement that recognizes the value of cooperation within
Canada in order to compete on a global scale.
The upgrade is part of a project called MACI (Multimedia
Advanced Computational Infrastructure), led by Dr Schaeffer
and Dr Brian Unger at the University of Calgary. Through
MACI, over $20 million in advanced computing resources
are being developed in Alberta. MACI was the recipient
of the largest computing grant awarded by the Canada
Foundation for Innovation last June.
Dr Jonathan Schaeffer, Professor, Computing Science,
University of Alberta (780) 492-3851 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Anne Moser, Communications Manager, Netera Alliance
(403) 949-3306 email@example.com
MACI PROJECT BIG WINNER IN NATIONAL RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE
The MACI-2 project, a joint effort of the universities
of Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge and Manitoba, has received
full funding for its $18 million computational infrastructure
plans, the Canada Foundation for Innovation announced
Led by Dr Jonathan Schaeffer at the University of Alberta
and Dr Brian Unger at the University of Calgary, MACI-2
is the largest high performance computing proposal to
receive funding in this CFI competition, which will
infuse a total of $226 million into research infrastructure
for the knowledge-based economy.
The CFI confirmation of $5.8 million for MACI-2 seals
the $4.4 million from the Intellectual Infrastructure
Partnership Program (IIPP) committed in matching dollars
late last year by the provincial government. Investment
by participating universities and private industry brings
the total project value to $18 million over three years
wanted to ensure that the highest quality research could
be done in Alberta," said Dr Unger, "and MACI-2 puts
us in that class - not only by providing powerful computing
facilities but also multimedia resources for visualizing
MACI-2 will build on the computational and multimedia
infrastructure established by MACI-1, which was launched
with an $800,000 grant from IIPP. MACI-1 infrastructure
includes the Origin 2000 at the U of A and the Alpha
Cluster, Digital Media Lab and Cyberport at the U of
With MACI-2, several more Digital Media Labs and Cyberports
are planned. In addition, significant expansions are
planned for the computing cluster at the U of C and
for the shared memory machine at the U of A. These facilities
will be shared with other researchers through a national
umbrella organization, C3.
have been strong advocates of sharing, because this
will be a criteria for strength in the information age,"
Dr Schaeffer explains. To receive CFI funding, applicants
had to demonstrate how their projects will benefit Canada.
- end -
ALPHA CLUSTER EXCEEDS PEAK CAPACITY
For a couple of weeks already this
year, the advanced computing resource at the University
of Calgary, the Alpha Cluster, has been running at a
100 percent capacity.
It reached a load of 130 percent
at one point, according to Advanced Networking and Computing
Systems Administrator Robert Fridman. This means there
are jobs queued up, waiting to be run.
"As soon as people started running
parallel code, it began to get really busy," Fridman
explained. Both parallel and serial jobs are run on
the Cluster at the same time, so it can simultaneously
serve users with different needs. The majority of the
work currently running on the Cluster is research in
chemistry and astrophysics.
The Alpha Cluster is made up of
30 nodes (or processors) that work in parallel to speed
up computational time. The increased speed opens up
the possibilities of posing more, and more complicated,
The Cluster was obtained as part
of MACI (Multimedia Advanced Computational Infrastructure),
a collaborative project of the University of Alberta
and the University of Calgary to build world-class computing
facilities for Alberta researchers. A proposal is before
the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to expand
the Alpha Cluster to 128 nodes. Results are expected
in June, 1999.
For more information about the
Advanced Networking and Computing Systems Administrator,
tel (403) 220-6779
TRAINING AVAILABLE FOR MACI MEMBERS
(11 January 1999)
A "just-in-time" training program
is being launched this month by WurcNet to meet a critical
need for people trained in advanced networking, computing
Called the Virtual Training Program,
it is designed to keep pace with the regularly and rapidly
changing world of advanced technology. By developing
and delivering courses in short order, it focuses on
the immediate needs of users in research, industry and
The next workshop, Introduction
to Advanced Multimedia, will be held January 26 and
27 in the Learning Commons at the University of Calgary.
Instructors include well known Calgary faculty members
and professionals working in multimedia.
Workshops in Edmonton and Calgary
on advanced networking, parallel computing and distributed
memory programming are also scheduled for the spring.
MACI is one of the sponsors of
the Virtual Training Program. MACI members are eligible
for discounted rates.
WurcNet is a not-for-profit alliance
of education institutions, industry partners and government
agencies building the next-generation Internet and advanced
computational infrastructure for Alberta.
For workshop information, call
MACI MEMBERS ENCOURAGED TO CONVEY
(11 January 1999)
MACI members are encouraged to
provide suggestions for Virtual Training Program workshops.
The spring 1999 workshops are introductory
courses on advanced multimedia, parallel processing
and networking, and are designed to assess the need
for subsequent workshops.
Please send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
MACI-2: $4 MILLION PROVINCIAL
(24 November 1998)
The Province of Alberta has agreed
to fund MACI with the full amount requested in May's
Intellectual Infrastructure Partnership program (IIPP)
grant application: $4,360,000 over the next three years.
This includes $1.95 million for the first year.
The IIPP grant significantly improves
the chance of approval of a $6 million CFI (Canada Foundation
for Innovation) grant application currently under consideration.
MACI is into the second round of the competition for
funding from the CFI. Final results are expected in
EARLY RESULTS FROM NEW COMPUTER ON CAMPUS
After several months of being fully
operational, the alpha cluster is showing impressive
results. Purchased as part of the MACI (Multimedia Advanced
Computational Infrastructure) project, more than 30
users from chemistry, computer science, geology, engineering
and others, are using the facility. Several researchers
have ushered their work to new levels of productivity,
due to the increased speed that the alpha cluster offers.
As cluster administrator Robert
Fridman says, "In supercomputing, speed is everything."
Just what this speed means for research is becoming
For Dr Raj Rangayyan, the cluster
is helping him turn his research on enhancing mammographic
images into a practical technique. "Breast cancer detection
with mammography is not a simple task," he explains.
For some cases, image enhancement techniques can reveal
additional information to help the doctor in diagnosis.
But the time required to process these images has made
the technique impractical in an everyday lab setting,
even though it has shown it can improve diagnostic outcome.
With the alpha cluster, "the time
to obtain the images are in the order of seconds rather
than a couple of hours." As a result, the technique
can now be offered as a practical process in breast
cancer screening centres. Dr Rangayyan expects that
the service will be available within two years, after
a user-friendly interface and high-speed links are completed.
For Dr Larry Lines, who uses wave
equations to get seismic data, the cluster "means we
can start to expect performance in hours instead of
days." The impact on his research program is that "we
can deal with more realistic questions."
"We can try out things we couldn't
try before." This is significant in the area of geology
and geophysics where researchers need to stay in line
with advanced computing developments in the oil and
gas industry. "They're very efficient at data handling
- they're in a different league - but we're near the
forefront of algorithm development."
In the world of computer animation,
where researchers need to see results right away so
they can adjust parameters and try different possibilities,
a fast computer makes a world of difference. Dr Brian
Wyvill and his student Mark Tigges have been producing
textured surfaces in computer graphics in just seconds.
Working now with the cluster, "it takes longer to transfer
images to video than to render images," Dr Wyvill said
of their animations.
The heaviest users of the alpha
cluster to date have by far been the chemists, and while
they expect to make a significant step forward, results
for some of them have been mixed. "We're not able to
get new programs running on it the way we want," explains
Dr Arvi Rauk, citing software difficulties.
Fridman agrees that some of the
progress has been slow, "You can't just buy a book on
An application for $6 million is
before Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to expand
the alpha cluster to rank among the top 500 computing
facilities in the world. This expansion, along with
a similar expansion to the Origin 2000 computer at the
University of Alberta, are part of phase two of MACI.
MACI-2, as it is called, is designed to build a world-class
regional computational infrastructure with advanced
multimedia capabilities and involves the University
of Lethbridge and the University of Manitoba.
Final results of the CFI competition
are expected in June 1999.