National Office Progress and Initiatives

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Mark DietrichUpdate from Mark Dietrich, President and CEO

This April marks the end of my second year as Compute Canada President and CEO. Over the last 24 months, we have built a strong team that works closely with our research community, stakeholders and members to ensure their pressing needs and future requirements are at the forefront of our activities.

As the national voice for advanced research computing, Compute Canada’s outreach and advocacy for increased investment in ARC resources contributed to the Budget 2015 announcement of $100 million in capital funding for cyberinfrastructure in Canada, which has been followed by new funding opportunities from the CFI. Together with our regional partners we are working towards continuous improvement in the delivery of advanced research computing in Canada.

A key priority over these last two years has been to ensure that the renewal of the national platform was driven by the needs of the research community. The Sustainable Planning for Advanced Research Computing (SPARC) initiative was launched in 2014 to gather community input on “pressing and urgent” resource needs. White papers submitted in summer 2014 played a key role in informing strategic decisions of our organization, including the planning of future services and investments.

SPARC 2 was launched in January to update our understanding of the community’s needs, and included cross country consultations, white paper submissions and surveys. We have shared these white papers online and we are now compiling this input into a “statement of science needs” to guide our planning. This will be developed in close consultation with the Science Leadership Council, which is comprised of disciplinary team leads from across the country as well as a researcher representative from each of the four regions.

As we did with SPARC in 2014, the statement of needs will be translated into plans for new services and new technology investment, to be developed by the Technology Leadership Council, which includes the Chief Technology Officers of the four regions. Compute Canada has put in place numerous mechanisms that ensure that we capture the input of both our community of users and the expertise of CC Team Members from across our federated organization. Key groups are the Technology Leadership Council (TLC) and Science Leadership Council (SLC), as well as almost twenty “national teams” in specialized areas such as storage, digital humanities, visualization, communications and research support.

Groups like these have been instrumental in advancing many of Compute Canada’s most recent initiatives. Our Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Greg Newby, and our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Dugan O’Neil, work together with their regional counterparts and a network of national teamsacross Canada.

Here are some examples of what has been accomplished:

  • The Research Support National Team is defining procedures for the new national helpdesk, including selecting and implementing a nationwide ticketing system, which is already in active use supporting Globus file transfer, and account renewals.
  • The Security Leadership Council has developed initial cybersecurity policies that form the cornerstones of the Compute Canada Security Program, which is now being presented to all Compute Canada institutions for them to support.
  • The four Stage 1 host institutions are each forming their own System Teams, with participation of CC Team Members from outside each host institution, fulfilling our commitment to develop a distributed system administration and support capability that leverages the skills of staff from across the CC organization.
  • Those same System Teams also provide representatives for various national technology teams (storage, networking, cloud, monitoring, etc.), making it possible for Compute Canada to implement a consistent national technology plan across Canada.
  • As part of the Stage 1 deployment, procurement teams — which include representatives of the four sites, national technology teams, as well as host institution procurement officers—have been developing system specifications and RFP documents as well as evaluating vendor proposals in advance of vendor selection and negotiation by each Stage 1 host.
  • Several teams have been established dedicated to working with specific disciplines, starting with Digital Humanities, and expanding to other disciplines including bioinformatics, subatomic physics and biomolecular simulation.
  • Building on Compute Canada’s support for the Portage project, we have created a research data management team in partnership with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) to build a national research data management service that can scale to the needs of Canadian researchers working with big data.
  • The Education, Outreach and Training team established a national partnership with Software Carpentry for the delivery of standardized training in software development across Canada.

I look forward to keeping you up to date on our work and on new developments. It is an honour to serve the research community as we continue to support and accelerate excellence.

Mark Dietrich

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