WestGrid News

Missed the CCDB Renewal Deadline? Contact Compute Canada

Thank you to everyone who renewed their Compute Canada Database (CCDB) account by the April 1 deadline. All renewals have been processed to ensure user access to Compute Canada and WestGrid systems continues uninterrrupted. Users who did not renew by April 1 no longer have access to these systems as their account is now expired.

We realize some people had issues during the renewal phase and for that we apologize. If you missed the deadline and still need to renew your CCDB account, or if you renewed your account but are experiencing problems accessing systems, please contact Compute Canada or you may update your reporting information at any time by visiting: https://ccdb.computecanada.org/reporting

University of Alberta Team Claims 5th Place at Computer Go Competition

MP-Fuego Prototype, a University of Alberta (UofA) computer Go team, used WestGrid computing resources to help bring home a top five finish from an international competition last month. The Sixth Computer Go UEC Cup took place on March 16 - 17 at the University of Electro-Communications (UEC) near Tokyo, Japan and hosted top programs from around the world developed to play computer Go, a popular board game born in Asia. WestGrid's Hungabee cluster was used to power the Alberta team's entry, as real-time access to massively parallel computing power was essential for their participation in the UEC Cup.

The UofA team was spearheaded by Professor Martin Müller and was developed in collaboration with Kazuki Yoshizoe, a researcher from the Japan Science and Technology Agency and a frequent visitor to the UofA. The prototype is based on the open-source Fuego project, most of which has been developed in Alberta. The prototype includes a recent new algorithm for massively parallel game tree search developed by Yoshizoe, called TDS-depth-first-UCT.

Müller said he was very pleased with MP-Fuego Prototype's performance, noting it won games against some very strong opponents.

"This gives us great initial confidence in the validity of this approach, and the possibility of creating a really strong, massively scalable system in the very near future," said Müller.

Müller maintained a blog during the competition to share recaps of MP-Fuego Prototype's results throughout the competition. Full competition results can be on the event website.

Reminder: CCDB Account Renewals Must Be Complete By April 1

All registered Compute Canada users must renew their Compute Canada Database (CCDB) accounts by Monday, April 1 to maintain their access to the resources.

By now, all users should have received a renewal notice and instructions directly from CCDB. If you have not received this notice yet and you are an active Compute Canada user, please email Compute Canada. PIs are advised to begin their renewal early as the process can be time consuming.

Please note, even though you may have renewed your account recently, Compute Canada is asking that you do it again in order to comply with new reporting requirements. Any data you entered previously has been saved in the CCDB and can be expanded upon if needed. If you have any questions about the renewal process or encounter difficulties completing the online renewal form, please contact Compute Canada.

The collection of the requested information is crucial for the continued funding of Compute Canada operations. Your support in this process is appreciated.

WestGrid Powers University of Alberta Entry In Tokyo Computer Go Event

On March 16-17, a University of Alberta (UofA) developed prototype for playing computer Go, a popular board game born in Asia, will match up against the world's top Go programs for the largest computer Go event of the year. Hosted at the University of Electro-Communications (UEC) near Tokyo, Japan, the Sixth Computer Go UEC Cup will send the top two finishers to challenge a top human professional Go player in a match sanctioned by the Japanese Go Federation, the Nihon-Kiin. 

The UofA entry, called MP-Fuego prototype, is being spearheaded by Professor Martin Müller and was developed in collaboration with Kazuki Yoshizoe, a researcher from the Japan Science and Technology Agency and a frequent visitor to the UofA. The prototype is based on the open-source Fuego project, most of which has been developed in Alberta. The prototype includes a recent new algorithm for massively parallel game tree search developed by Yoshizoe, called TDS-depth-first-UCT.

Real-time access to computing power was essential for the team's participation in the UEC Cup. WestGrid stepped up to the challenge and will be allocating cycles on its massively parallel system, Hungabee, to support the team throughout the two-day contest. This competition is one piece of a larger research focus by Müller and his collaborators to develop practical, more scalable massively parallel MCTS algorithms.

"This research would not be possible without WestGrid and Compute Canada infrastructure because it requires a large parallel machine with an extremely fast interconnection network, which is provided by the Hungabee system," said Müller.

For more information on the UEC Cup and to track the results of the competition, please visit the event website.

Compute Canada CEO Visits WestGrid Regional HPC Partners

Bill Appelbe, CEO of Compute Canada, has been touring WestGrid partner institutions across Alberta and BC this week as part of ongoing stakeholder meetings across the country. In addition to introducing Appelbe to the community, these meetings are being held to inform the development of a long-term strategic plan for the national platform.

"The purpose of these visits is to get a first-hand sense of where the needs and resources are on all levels, from researchers to regional Compute Canada staff to University VPRs," said Appelbe. "I also want to work regionally to see how we can advocate for new funding opportunities and stronger engagement with research institutes and government. Compute Canada will not neglect its engagement with traditional scientific communities, but, we do need to reach out to a broader base of users and funding to deliver better services, stronger national collaboration, and sustainable funding."

Appelbe's Alberta stops included the University of Alberta, TEC Edmonton, the University of Calgary, and Cybera. In British Columbia, Appelbe is visiting the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and MITACS.

Additional visits to Saskatchewan and Manitoba are being planned for the coming months. More information on Compute Canada's strategic planning process can be found in the latest Compute Canada newsletter.



(Left to right) Bill Appelbe in discussions at an Analytics Roundtable at the University of Calgary; Bill Appelbe speaking with University of Calgary Associate VP(R), Frank Maurer; Bill Appelbe with (from left to right) WestGrid Chief Technology Officer, Rob Simmonds, and SKA Canada representatives, Bob Este and Russ Taylor.

Nanosystems Research Could Revolutionize Canadian Materials and Manufacturing Industries

By developing new multiscale theory and modeling methods for predicting the properties of nanoscience systems, Andriy Kovalenko’s research has the potential for application in a number of Canadian materials manufacturing and production industries. Kovalenko, who is presenting a talk on Wednesday, March 6 as part of the WestGrid Seminar Series, is studying the behavior of nanosystems in relation to the microscopic properties of atoms and chemical groups.

He uses WestGrid and Compute Canada advanced computing resources to produce computationally intensive multiscale models and simulations to reveal the structure, thermodynamics, and functions of nanosystems and to rationally design new applications and nanomaterials.

Examples include nanocrystalline cellulose-based green materials and composites for construction, aerospace, and automotive industries; oil upgrading nanocatalysts with a significantly reduced environmental footprint; electrochemical energy storage devices in smart power grids to enable renewable energy usage; and metabolite bionanosensors to create simple, low-cost diagnostic tests in health care.

To learn more about Kovalenko's work and the ways he is using HPC to support his research, join us at a collaboration room nearest you for Kovalenko's presentation at 11:30 am PST on Wednesday, March 6.

Results from University of Manitoba Research Could Help Surgeons Spot Abnormal Aortic Aneurysms Earlier

Earlier diagnosis of life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) rupture may be on the horizon thanks to research by the University of Manitoba's David Kuhn. AAA rupture is a catastrophic event that results in a death rate of over 90%. Kuhn, a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, is using direct numerical simulation (DNS) to study the physiological blood flow in AAA.

Previous studies have shown that blood flow hemodynamics play a significant role in both the biological and mechanical factors that predispose AAA formation and rupture. Using realistic patient-derived 3D models to simulate and assess pulsatile flow, Kuhn aims to better understand the role of hemodynamics on the growth of AAA.

WestGrid and Compute Canada systems are critical to this simulation and assessment of these compute-intensive models. In addition to contributing to new insights into the relationships between hemodynamics and AAA rupture, Kuhn's research also has the potential to assist surgeons in identifying AAA that are at a high risk of rupture. For more information on Kuhn's research, click here.

WestGrid Resources Support UBC Research Project to Reconstruct Ancient Protolanguages

University of British Columbia and Berkeley researchers have used a sophisticated new computer system to quickly reconstruct protolanguages – the rudimentary ancient tongues from which modern languages evolved. The results, which are 85 per cent accurate when compared to the painstaking manual reconstructions performed by linguists, were published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most of the large simulations were done using a UC Berkeley cluster, but additional computations were performed on WestGrid resources and future work on this project will make use of WestGrid computational power.

“We’re hopeful our tool will revolutionize historical linguistics much the same way that statistical analysis and computer power revolutionized the study of evolutionary biology,” says UBC Assistant Prof. of Statistics Alexandre Bouchard-Côté, lead author of the study. “And while our system won’t replace the nuanced work of skilled linguists, it could prove valuable by enabling them to increase the number of modern languages they use as the basis for their reconstructions.”

To read the full story on the UBC website, click here.

WestGrid Hiring a Manager, Technical Operations

WestGrid is seeking a full-time Manager, Technical Operations (MTO) to support the operations of the high-performance computing consortium across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. In addition to coordinating and supporting the site team leaders (Site Leads) at the institutions involved, the MTO will also be responsible for supporting the CTO and Executive Director in creating various documentation for funders and Compute Canada. The MTO will be responsible for overseeing the operations of the WestGrid core network, which includes managing network troubleshooting procedures and coordinating network upgrades.

Ideal candidates will have a background as a senior system administrator, and be a self-motivated, proactive individual with well-developed interpersonal and communications skills. A secondment hiring arrangement would be considered. Interested candidates must apply by Friday, March 1. The position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been appointed. For more details on the position responsibilities, criteria, and instructions on how to apply, click here.

WestGrid Visualization Tools In Action: Modelling Solar Wind Behaviours

What happens when high velocity (400 km/s) solar winds meet the magnetic field of the planet Mercury? Jan Paral could tell you, but he’d much rather show you.

Following nearly four years of writing and fixing code, harnessing massive computational power, and integrating advanced data visualization software, Paral has been able to share this astronomical phenomenon with rest of the world. The University of Alberta doctoral student, with the help of supervisor and University of Alberta Physics Professor Robert Rankin, combined satellite data with observations from MESSENGER, NASA’s spacecraft orbiting Mercury, to create a one-of-a-kind simulation of the interaction between solar winds and the planet’s magnetic field.

“One of my bigger simulations needs more than three billion particles pushed step by step, followed in space and time, to get the kind of result you see on the animation,” Paral said. “You need an enormous amount of resources to do that, for several days.”

Paral spent time at IBM’s T.J. Watson Labs in New York optimizing and debugging his code and was given access to IBM’s BlueGene supercomputer for a majority of these computationally complex runs. Paral also used WestGrid’s Jasper and Lattic clusters for some of the later runs. Chris Want, a member of WestGrid’s Visualization Team and a scientific visualization programmer with the University of Alberta's Academic Information & Communications Technology division, assisted with the visualization component, using WestGrid computing resources to render some of the final animations. To view the animation, click here.

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