High Performance Computing

What is HPC?

HPC stands for “High Performance Computing” and it primarily refers to running a computer programs across multiple processors at the same time for increased speed. This is often referred to as “parallel computing” and programming tools such as MPI (“message passing interface”) and OpenMP (“Open Multi-Processing”) are written into the code to enable this to happen. HPC is a sub-component of ARC (“advanced research computing”) which is meant to capture computing techniques and methods that are beyond what an average desktop or laptop can perform.


How do I get access to HPC?

The first step is to sign-up for a Compute Canada account. You can find the instructions to get both Compute Canada and WestGrid accounts here. Once this account is in place you will be able to access many of the HPC machines within the WestGrid and Compute Canada networks using a protocol called SSH (Secure Shell), a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network. Having a WestGrid and Compute Canada account will get you access to a basic amount of available resources. If you require larger access to the available resources then you will need to submit an application to Compute Canada as part of a process known as the RAC (Resources Allocation Competition) or contact your local site rep to see if other options are available.


What HPC systems are available?

The available systems are each managed by teams at the research sites where they are housed and these teams are part of larger, regional based consortia which support them, and these consortia are in turn part of Compute Canada. Compute Canada is working on a single list of all systems but currently lists of the available HPC systems, their status, and any requirements or specifications needed to run on them are maintained by each consortia, as follows:

Compute Ontario:


What training is available for HPC services?

Training is available for how to use the HPC systems via workshops, webinars, and one-on-one sessions. There are also instructions for how to use most of the systems on the consortia websites.


What support is available for HPC services?

Support is available directly from the consortia websites in the form of instructions for using the HPC systems. In cases where the basic instructions and troubleshooting covered in the web resources is not enough then users of these systems are encouraged to send an email to the respective support contact for direct assistance (Note that Calcul Québec offers email support by system while the other consortia use a single email to support all systems):

Calcul Québec:


What is the cost for using HPC services?

Use of the HPC systems within the Compute Canada network is free for faculty and librarians at Canadian research institutions although use beyond basic amounts is subject to the RAC review process noted above.