Canada’s Most Powerful Research Supercomputer Niagara Fuels Canadian Innovation and Discovery


Photo: Nizar Ladak, President and CEO, Compute Ontario;  Dr. Richard Peltier, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Physicist, University of Toronto; Minister Reza Moridi, Ministry of Research Innovation and Science; Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation; and Dr. Vivek Goel, Vice President, Research and Innovation, University of Toronto, pose in front of a live video feed of the new Niagara supercomputer during an unveiling at the MaRS Centre in Toronto, Ont., Monday, March 5, 2018. The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Compute Ontario

Toronto, ON (March 5, 2018) – Canada’s most powerful research supercomputer, Niagara, is now available to researchers of all disciplines across the country. Located at the University of Toronto and supported by the university’s high-performance computing division SciNet the system is open to all Canadian university researchers. Niagara is part of a system of national advanced research computing infrastructure, which includes Cedar at Simon Fraser UniversityArbutus at the University of Victoria, and Graham at University of Waterloo.Together, these systems provide Canadian researchers with the tools to compete globally using big data and high-performance computing systems.

Advanced research computing is the backbone of Canadian innovation. Niagara will give researchers the computing power they need to study and find solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. It will enable large-scale computation and simulation required for artificial intelligence, climate change research, ocean modelling, genomics, astrophysics, and other disciplines using big data research to fuel discovery.

This new system is jointly funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Ontario, and the University of Toronto.

Niagara is the fastest computer system in the country and is able to run a single job across all 60,000 cores thanks to a high-performance network which interconnects all the nodes. Niagara is highly energy efficient and is configured specifically to accelerate innovation.

The cluster is an end-to-end Lenovo solution with 1,500 ultra-dense ThinkSystem SD530 compute nodes, providing more than three petaflops of processing power, supported by 12 petabytes of storage.  Mellanox EDR InfiniBand is used to create an industry-first Dragonfly+ network topology featuring adaptive routing to provide the high-speed low-latency communications necessary for large-scale full-system simulations. Burst-buffer technology from Excelero helps improve performance for data-intensive work loads. The system leverages Lenovo Ethernet for cluster management.  For more facts about the system, please see here, or find more technical information here and here.

Niagara is named after the iconic Niagara Falls; an Ontario landmark that symbolizes incredible power, discovery, and awe.

Please see below for quotes from Canadian academics  using Niagara, quotes from other partners, and more about Canada’s supercomputers.

Watch the video.

Researcher quotes

“As an initial demonstration of full system capability, Niagara is currently being employed to perform a heroic computation of the interaction between the tides raised in the oceans by the gravitational attraction of the sun and moon and ocean bottom topography at very high spatial resolution. The accurate description of this interaction is at the heart of improving the skill of the ocean component of the climate models we employ to make global warming projections.” – Prof. W. Richard Peltier, FRSC is University Professor and Professor of Physics at the University of Toronto, Director of the Centre for Global Change Science, PI of the Polar Climate Stability Network, and Scientific Director of SciNet.

“The large parallel capability of Niagara enables world-leading precision cosmological simulations incorporating neutrinos. This draws talent from across the world, focusses their research strengths, and brings visibility to the research results” – Dr.Ue-Li Pen, Professor and Director, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Toronto; Senior Fellow, CIFAR.

“The technological solutions for biggest challenges facing humankind are being driven by a combination of scientific know-how, data science, and supercomputing. In this digital economy, research and innovation competitiveness is highly dependent upon the high-performance computing infrastructure. In this regard, the installation of Niagara, Canada’s newest computing facility, fulfills a critical need and will allow my research group to computationally design and discover new materials for promoting sustainable energy, transportation, and health in Canada and worldwide.” Dr. Chandra Veer Singh, PhD, PEng is Erwin Edward Hart Endowed Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at University of Toronto.

“As is recognized by many countries and increasingly in Canada, advanced computing underpins a great deal of work in science and engineering.  Consequently, access to world-class computing power is essential to enable research to address important societal issues in a timely manner. For example, Canada’s new advanced research computer, Niagara, is crucial for my research investigating next-generation aircraft configurations with improved fuel efficiency and reduced environmental impact.” -Dr. David Zingg PhD, FCASI, AFAIAA, FCAE is University of Toronto Distinguished Professor of Computational Aerodynamics and Sustainable Aviation; Director, Centre for Research in Sustainable Aviation; Director, Centre for Computational Science and Engineering, University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies

Partner Quotes

(In alphabetical order)
Canada Foundation for Innovation
“Today, we celebrate the addition of Niagara to Canada’s powerful national network of research supercomputers. With access to such massive computational and data storage resources, researchers in all disciplines will be positioned to advance their work and tackle pressing global challenges. This kind of venture relies on collaboration among partners: institutions, Compute Canada, funding agencies and researchers alike.” Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation

Compute Canada
“Niagara, and the three other national systems, will serve a diverse community of over 11,000 Canadian researchers and enable discoveries in areas that are key to Canada’s social and economic prosperity such as climate change, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing. We’re honoured to collaborate with our partners and proud of the achievements we’ve accomplished together.” – Robbin Tourangeau, Interim CEO, Compute Canada

Compute Ontario
“Advanced research computing is the backbone of Canadian innovation. We are incredibly proud of the partnerships and collaboration that have made Niagara a reality for Canadian researchers; 40% of whom are based in Ontario.” – Nizar Ladak, President & CEO, Compute Ontario

“It is our goal to help the world’s premier research teams and institutions leverage high performance computing to solve humanity’s greatest challenges. Our close partnership with University of Toronto, Compute Ontario and Compute Canada to advance Niagara as Canada’s most powerful research computing platform is a great example of collaborative innovation we can achieve in fulfilling that goal.” -Scott Tease, executive director of HPC and AI at Lenovo Data Center Group

Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science
“Innovation and technology are advancing at a pace never before seen in history. Niagara will help our researchers do their best work and make new discoveries, fueling our knowledge-based economy.” – The Honourable Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research, Innovation and Science.

University of Toronto
“Niagara is a major leap forward in advanced computing power for scientists and engineers at U of T and across Canada engaged in cutting-edge big data research from aerospace and astrophysics to health research and machine learning, and increasingly the social sciences and humanities. Access to such a powerful system, believed to rank among the top 50 supercomputers in the world, is also crucial to help us train — and retain — much-needed, highly qualified personnel.” – Dr. Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research & Innovation, University of Toronto

Context in Canada

By the end of 2018, Canada will have four major supercomputers, part of a national advanced research computing infrastructure coordinated by Compute Canada and its regional partners, Compute Ontario, Calcul Québec, ACENET and WestGrid. While much computing can be done with equivalent efficiency on any cluster, in the spirit of serving the incredibly diverse research community in Canada each supercomputer has unique features that make it appealing to scientists of certain disciplines, or with researchers requiring specific types of computing.