Advanced Computing Workshop Draws Research and Computing Leaders

“Keep the broom closet for the brooms!” someone yelled at ORION’s recent advanced computing (AC) workshop, referring to how the computer systems that researchers depend upon are often overlooked, aging or unsupported.

It was a viewpoint that many in the room seemed to share – and the room was filled with leaders from Ontario’s research and computing institutions. They came together to help develop a strategy for improving access to advanced and high-performance computing (HPC) for Ontario researchers.

AC and the IT specialists who keep those resources running smoothly are an invaluable resource for Ontario’s researchers, ensuring our province remains competitive and able to participate in international collaboration projects. Some examples include the CBRAIN Platform and the Brain-CODE project.

However, a thorough review conducted by ORION found that too many researchers are hitting roadblocks in their efforts to gain access to the computing resources they need to remain competitive. It could be estimated that researchers are losing the equivalent of a full day’s work per week as a result of not having effective access to AC services and support.

That’s why ORION organized a workshop to bring together some of Ontario’s leading minds and influential organizers of research and computing. Gathered in one room, we had the opportunity to start discussing ways to overcome those barriers.
 

Leaders from Ontario's research and computing institutions discuss strategies for  advanced computing in Ontario.
Leaders from Ontario’s research and computing institutions discuss strategies for advanced computing in Ontario.

 
The consensus amongst the group quickly became clear: advanced computing can no longer be relegated to the broom closet. Here is just a small sampling of some of the issues raised by attendees and guest speakers:

  • existing computing infrastructure in Ontario is quickly becoming outdated
  • there is a dire shortage of highly qualified people (HQP) to support access to and effective use of AC platforms and services
  • better support for storing, cataloguing and re-using research data are needed
  • while industry partnerships can be difficult for researchers, there are many opportunities for better industry and researcher engagement if current barriers to communication and collaboration are addressed

Other more specific recommendations were given in the workshop concerning bioplatforms, cloud services, online portals and sector challenges in training IT specialists to support researchers. These recommendations will be included in ORION’s final ACTION report, which is currently being drafted.

If you want to receive a copy of the final report when it’s released, sign up for our ACTION updates. [Editor’s note: This report has been released. Please see updates on our ACTION page.]
 

Shiva Amiri from the Ontario Brain Institute jots down notes during the group breakout session at ORION's advanced computing workshop on February 13, 2014.
Shiva Amiri from the Ontario Brain Institute jots down notes during the group breakout session at ORION’s advanced computing workshop on February 13, 2014.