SHARC research goes swimmingly
By Maggie Wrobel
Dr. Evil may have created sharks “with laser beams on their friggin’ heads,” but
Western has a different kind of shark — one that’s useful and innovative.
The Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET) is
a research community that brings together researchers from various fields in
order to work together to expediate the process and enhance the quality of
different research endavours. Its mandate is “to establish a world-leading,
multi-university, interdisciplinary institute with an active academic-industry
partnership, enabling forefront computational research in critical areas of
science, engineering and business.”
Working with a budget in the millions of dollars, the consortium uses High
Performance Computing technology (HPC) as HPC allows for superior computing
power, allowing researchers to process large amounts of data quickly across
a nationally-linked network.
SHARCNET was formally established in June 2001 and consists of 11 HPC sections
distributed across various institutions in southern Ontario. Western leads
the consortium, which also includes the universities of Guelph, McMaster, Waterloo,
Wilfrid Laurier, Windsor, Brock, York, the Ontario Institute of Technology
and Sheridan and Fanshawe Colleges.
“[The consortium] includes researchers from all faculties, including
economics, science, social science and many others,” says Carmen Giacante,
executive director of SHARCNET, adding there are approximately 100 researchers
at Western alone.
“The work done [through SHARCNET] ties in with the work done at various
research centres around the country, including [Western’s] Robarts [Research
Institute],” he says. “It’s more than just the university — it’s
a research community.”
Giacante explains that researchers at Western are currently working on various
experiments, including research on house interest rates, old-age pension plans
and stocks and bonds. “A good analogy for this type of research is auto
design,” he says. “[People] used to build automobiles using clay
and steam models, until we moved on to building prototypes with computers.”
The consortium is based on academic-industrial collaboration, and its current
industry partners include Bell Canada, Platform Computing, Nortel Networks,
Hewlett-Packard and the Optical Regional Advanced Network of Ontario (ORANO).
ORANO provides the high-speed connection that links the research sites at Western,
McMaster and Guelph.
—with files from www.sharcnet.ca