Compute Canada Announces: Sustainable Planning for Advanced Research Computing (SPARC)


A national engagement of Canada’s research community to create a national forecast of advanced research computing, data storage and archiving requirements.


Compute Canada applauds and supports the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) announcement of consultations in preparation for the $50 million cyberinfrastructure initiative. It signals an important step in renewing Canada’s commitment to this essential enabler of scientific and industrial leadership.

This initiative builds on CFI’s previous investments in 2006 and their ongoing support through the CFI-MSI program for Compute Canada, and it will benefit a significant proportion of Canada’s research community.

CFI is contemplating a renewal of the existing Compute Canada national platform as well as funding for domain-specific data projects. The bulk of such infrastructure would be operated and maintained by Compute Canada. To prepare for this initiative, Compute Canada will consult and engage with Canada’s researchers and research-intensive institutions to develop Sustainable Planning for Advanced Research Computing (SPARC).

This will be a shared forum for discussion among key stakeholders on the kinds of investment required to enable Canada’s excellence and leadership in science and innovation, with a particular focus on sectors that are highly dependent on digital infrastructure. As the national voice for advanced research computing in Canada, Compute Canada will ensure SPARC includes both specific and common requirements for its communities.

SPARC will guide Compute Canada’s renewal proposal to CFI, will provide a forum for collaboration among research groups considering domain-specific proposals and will facilitate engagement and community discussion during CFI’s consultation process.

SPARC will look beyond the upcoming CFI call to chart a sustainable plan for cyberinfrastructure in Canada through to 2022.

SPARC will be built from the individual roadmaps and long range plans of numerous data intensive research disciplines, the expertise of key stakeholders, and the strategic plans of Canada’s research intensive academic institutions; including universities, polytechnics, research centres and research hospitals.

SPARC will emphasize the resource requirements of specific transformative opportunities for Canada. This will be the first national inventory of research data storage archiving requirements and will enable an evidence-based discussion regarding the Canadian resource requirements to manage the research data explosion.

SPARC will catalogue the types of digital services and middleware that today’s researchers need to be competitive and will guide the specification of a new paradigm for Compute Canada’s future service offering.

Compute Canada will gather input for SPARC through the summer of 2014 by:

  • Issuing a call for whitepapers addressing the advanced computing and data needs of specific disciplines (for example astronomy, sociology, biology, subatomic physics etc.) in June 2014 with responses due by July 31, 2014. We recognize that not all disciplinary groups will be able to produce a forecast on this timescale. We are seeking whitepapers from those disciplines where forecasts do exist or are being prepared.
  • Facilitating workshops to bring together key digital scholars in disciplines and research areas where there are growing needs that must be formalized or quantified in a plan. These workshops will give all disciplines an opportunity to build domain-specific forecasts to link scientific objectives with advanced research computing, management of large data sets, preservation of “big data” for use by future researchers and advanced digital services needed to support excellence.
  • Gathering long-range plans for advanced research computing, data storage and archiving and advanced digital services from universities, colleges, research hospitals, research centres and institutions and our provincial partners and regional organizations.
  • Consulting with key “expert” bodies, such as CIHR/NSERC/SSHRC, CFI, Genome Canada, CANARIE, CARL, Research Data Canada, CUCCIO, Statistics Canada, and the National Research Council. Compute Canada looks forward to working with each of these organizations.
  • Compiling and analyzing Compute Canada’s own data on usage and requests for resources; conducting in-depth interviews with key Compute Canada users, particularly those whose usage has grown rapidly;
  • Soliciting open submissions from interested researchers and research groups regarding transformational opportunities with digital infrastructure, as well as specific forecasts of computing and storage resources requirements.

Compute Canada intends to complete a preliminary plan by November 2014. This will allow a short period of consultation and institutional and disciplinary collaboration in advance of CFI’s proposed deadline for Notices of Intent (NOIs) for domain-specific proposals due by January 2015 and Compute Canada’s Cyberinfrastructure Renewal Proposal due by April 2015.

Once the initial plan is complete, Compute Canada will seek feedback and facilitate the refinement of proposals and opportunities with the research community. These activities are planned for April through to September 2015, for a complete sustainable plan for advanced research computing. This plan will guide Compute Canada’s 2nd stage renewal proposal to CFI, and provide a roadmap for Canada’s advanced research computing investments.

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About Compute Canada
A national digital infrastructure that enables excellence in industrial and academic research and innovation; Compute Canada is Canada’s national advanced research computing enterprise. Compute Canada integrates high performance computing systems, research expertise and tools, data storage and resources at academic research facilities across the country. We work to ensure that Canadian researchers have the advanced research computing facilities and expert services required to remain globally competitive.

The National Platform
Compute Canada’s distributed resources represent close to 2 petaFLOPs of computing power and more than 20 petabytes of storage. These capabilities are provided by a wide range of resources including: clusters, large SMP, and cloud computing. Compute Canada and its regional organizations provide architecture planning, software integration, operations and management and coordination of user support for the national platform. Canadian researchers have direct access to Compute Canada programming and technical experts who work to enable efficient use of these advanced systems.