Compute Canada Cloud

What is the cloud?

Cloud computing can usefully be understood as “using someone else’s computer via a remote connection.” What matters is where that computer is and how it is being used. Possible service offerings include file storage tools and data processing pipelines, to assembling a virtual computer from the parts of a much larger machine at the cloud hosting site.


Where is the cloud?

Cloud services can typically be accessed from anywhere an Internet connection is available (although some services might be restricted to only connections made from within certain locations) so from the perspective of access the cloud is “(almost) everywhere”. From the perspective of where the machines providing the resources are located the cloud is in very particular locations. All of the machines associated with the Compute Canada Cloud are located in Canada at research institutions, which can be an important feature for anyone concerned about privacy and control of their data.


What cloud services are available?

There are currently three principal cloud services available:

  • OwnCloud. This service is run on the Bugaboo system at Simon Fraser University and it provides 50GB of Dropbox-like storage to anyone with a Compute Canada account that has turned on their access to WestGrid. It can be accessed via Internet browsers, a downloadable desktop tool, or an app placed on a cell phone or tablet.
  • Globus. This is a file transfer tool that offers a drag-and-drop-like interface via internet browsers (a command line version is also available). It has powerful features like full encryption, fire and forget transfers that automatically continue when the connection is interrupted, and a very efficient/fast transfer protocol. Globus is handy for moving data to and from Compute Canada systems but also for moving data between (almost) any system that an account holder has access to.
  • OpenStack Cloud. OpenStack is the tool used by most Compute Canada cloud sites to provide account holders with the ability to assemble virtual machines in the cloud that can be put to work doing pretty much anything that a powerful desktop/laptop (or set of powerful desktops/laptops) could do.


How is access to cloud services gained?

The first step is to sign-up for a Compute Canada account. Once this account is obtained OwnCloud can be had by turning on access to WestGrid (login to, choose “Apply for a consortium account” from the “My Account” menu, and then choose WestGrid) and then waiting 24 hours for the application to be processed. Globus access can be had automatically by visiting and logging in with Compute Canada selected as the institution. Access to the OpenStack cloud resources is had by following the instructions at the bottom of


What training is available for Cloud Services?

WestGrid has recorded two introductory cloud seminars. The first looks at the OpenStack cloud tool and is available at The second covers OwnCloud and Globus and is available at In addition to these two webinars in-person training workshops are offered a few times a year. At the University of Alberta these workshops are regularly held in the Spring in conjunction with Research Data Management Week. Requests can also be made through the various consortia support channels for cloud training.


What support is available for Cloud Services?

Support for the OpenStack cloud tool and its underlying hardware is available through and by emailing Globus support is available by emailing Support for OwnCloud is available by emailing