How we at MUN value ACENET

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To: Dr. Ray Gosine, Vice-President (Research) Pro Tempore

Dear Dr. Gosine,

Please forgive the dramatic presentation of this letter: it is not a petition.  The website in our case provides a convenient way for users of ACENET at MUN to signal their support for the ideas expressed below, and hopefully to add some individual perspectives.

With Dalhousie pulling out of its commitment to host a Data Centre in Atlantic Canada, we are concerned about the future of high performance computing at MUN.

We value ACENET for the way it enables our research.  Here are some of the ways it does so.

1) Hardware.  The HPC facilities currently within ACENET have provided significant computing power.  Proximity of hardware means proximity to the people who run it, That makes building relationships easier, and good relationships make everything better.  This is particularly valuable for those of us who have contributed hardware.  Proximity also means better - faster, more reliable - access to our data, despite network links to other HPC facilities around the country.

2) Access to other Compute Canada hardware.  Without ACENET's contributions to the national hardware effort, how long will it be before our access to HPC systems around the country is curtailed?  Would it not be better to have our own machines than to eventually pay users fees to Ontario, Quebec and Western Canada? 

3) Education and Training.  ACENET provides training to new users of HPC facilities and is responsive to requests for providing training sessions on more advanced HPC-related topics.  ACENET staff have in the past and are currently engaged in teaching computing-related courses, e.g. Scientific Computing 6950, and use of ACENET facilites complements curricula in other courses taught at MUN (this would be much more difficult if ACENET were not local).  Through "Open Houses" and other outreach activities, ACENET endeavors to bring HPC to communities that have not been traditional users, such as the humanities.  The world is becoming increasingly digital, and it helps having ACENET facilitate the transition.

4) Computational Research Support.  Computational Research Consultants (Oliver Stueker at MUN) are available to help users optimize code, learn software, educate users on more modern and efficient ways of doing things.  By working with different researchers, CRC's gain a global perspective.  For example, Shah Razul, as a CRC stationed as St. Francis Xavier University at the time, came to MUN to give a series of sessions on molecular dynamics simulations to a sizeable group of interested researchers, and now leads the Bio-molecular Simulations group under CC's Science Leadership Council.  It's an example of having people close by leading to better research support. 

5) Contributed systems.  ACENET has helped procure, setup and maintain several computing systems purchased by researchers through individual (or small group) grants.  When I write "help", a really mean "basically do everything".  This leveraging of expertise takes away the burden of time and system administration from the researcher, making it that much more efficient.  ACENET knows how to build an HPC system.

6) National connections.  As part of CC, ACENET's operations are held accountable to the community of peers from across Canada.  Resources do not sit idle.  With ACENET at the national table, we at MUN have a voice that will help ensure that our needs are represented.

7) Support that works.  Have a question?  Something not working or wondering how to get something done? works remarkably well.


Ivan Saika-Voivod,

Chair of the ACENET Local User Group at MUN

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