Getting started

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What do you want to do?

For any other questions, you might try the Search box in the upper right corner of this page, the main page for Compute Canada Documentation, or contact us by email.

What resources are available?

Compute Canada is currently installing several million dollars’ worth of new computers while simultaneously retiring many old computers. During the transition period (2016-2018), a changing mix of old and new computers will be available to you. You can read about the progress of the migration from old to new systems here.

New resources (deployed in 2016 or after)

Compute Canada began to renew its infrastructure in 2016. The first phase of the new deployment is composed of four new clusters, called Arbutus, Cedar, Graham, and Niagara.

Arbutus is a cloud site, which allows users to launch and customize virtual machines. Arbutus went into service in September 2016.

Béluga, Cedar and Graham are general purpose clusters composed of a variety of nodes including large memory nodes and nodes with accelerators. You can log in to any of these using SSH and the same password you use at ccdb.computecanada.ca. A home directory will be automatically created for you the first time you log in.

Niagara is a homogeneous cluster designed for large parallel jobs (>1000 cores). It entered service in March 2018.

Your password to log in to all new national systems are the same one you use to log in to ccdb.computecanada.ca. Your username will be displayed at the top of your home page at ccdb.computecanada.ca once you've logged in there.

Legacy resources (deployed before 2016)

Computing and storage resources which were installed between 2004 and 2015 and scheduled to be decommissioned in the next few years are referred to as legacy resources. The legacy resources are administered by regional organizations, one of ACENET, the Centre for Advanced Computing, Calcul Québec, SciNet, SHARCNET, and WestGrid. To use a legacy resource you must have an account with one of these entities; you can apply for an account through CCDB. Resources deployed during and after 2016 will not require this step, nor will the two clouds.

Most legacy clusters are classified as either capacity clusters or capability clusters. Capacity clusters contain nodes connected to each other by a relatively slow Ethernet network, while the capability clusters have a fast network, usually InfiniBand. Large parallel jobs will run better on capability clusters than capacity clusters, while smaller jobs will run almost anywhere.

There is one legacy cluster equipped with accelerators such as GPUs. You will find them on the following legacy system:

  • Helios, hosted by Calcul Québec and equipped with NVidia GPUs.

What resources should I use?

This question is hard to answer because of the range of needs Compute Canada serves, and because of the enormous variety of resources we have available --- especially during the 2016-2018 renewal period. If the descriptions above are insufficient, contact Compute Canada’s technical support or your regional support.

In order to identify the best resource to use, we may ask specific questions, such as:

  • What software do you want to use?
    • Does the software require a commercial license?
    • Can the software be used non-interactively? That is, can it be controlled from a file prepared prior to its execution rather than through the graphical interface?
    • Can it run on the Linux operating system?
  • How much memory, time, computing power, accelerators, storage, network bandwidth and so forth --- are required by a typical job? Rough estimates are fine.
  • How frequently will you need to run this type of job?

You may know the answer to these questions or not. If you do not, our technical support team is there to help you find the answers. Then they will be able to direct you to the most appropriate resources for your needs.