This post was written by Alec Miller, Manager, Measured Innovation at TechAlliance
About a year ago, the Federal and Ontario Governments, in conjunction with IBM and a consortium of seven Ontario universities, pledged $210 million to a new platform for High Performance and Cloud Computing. Dubbed the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (aka SOSCIP), the project consists of a newly built data centre in Barrie, two IBM BlueGene/Q supercomputers located at the University of Toronto, software infrastructure for cloud and agile computing located at Western University, and knowledgeable support staff.
Last Tuesday, IBM and the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) held an information session in London to describe this platform and how small and medium sized businesses will be able utilize this infrastructure.
But what is High Performance Computing anyways? Why put over $200 million into some powerful computers and a bunch of fancy software? What exactly is the big idea here? How can Ontario companies tap into this advanced computing infrastructure?
I’ll touch on each of these briefly below.
What is HPC and Why is It Important?
High Performance Computing is essentially the use of powerful computers to solve complex computational problems. IBM, through its Smarter Planet campaign, is focusing on these complex problems as they relate to major global issues such as healthcare, water, energy, and cities in general.
To understand why High Performance Computing is valuable at the highest level, it helps to think about what some have called the “knowledge hierarchy” (see infographic below). By itself, raw data is of limited value, but when that data is contextualized, compared, and framed it becomes information. When that information is structured, interpreted, and mapped, it becomes knowledge. When that knowledge is applied and used to inform actions, we can say that a decision maker acted wisely. Arguably, as data is distilled into information, then knowledge, and finally wisdom, its value increases as it allows us to better understand and adapt to the world around us.
In theory, and hopefully also in practice, increased computational power will allow engineers, entrepreneurs and policy makers to design IT systems which will deliver better insights, faster. Additionally, the robust cloud computing infrastructure that IBM has built will allow researchers and SME’s to deliver their newly developed applications using some of the most modern network architecture available.
For more information about the potential applications of High Performance, Cloud and Agile computing technology, check out this list of recently funded research projects done in conjunction with Western University, and this video put together by IBM describing the platform’s potential.
For more information on how SME’s can collaborate with academia and capitalize on this new research and development platform, please contact an OCE Business Development Manager (link).