Canadian Supercomputer to Help Probe Fundamental Structure of Matter

Canada Contributes Computer Horsepower Supplied by IBM to Global Project That Aims to Discover the Origin of Mass

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VANCOUVER - 18 Oct 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) and TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, announced today that the ATLAS Tier-1 Data Analysis Centre – dedicated to investigating the fundamental structure of matter --  is ready for production after a significant hardware upgrade. The upgrade increases the computing power and the disk storage by a factor of about seven and adds a tape silo to store the raw data from ATLAS.  The Tier-1 centre is now one of the most powerful computing facilities in Canada.

The new IBM System Cluster 1350 supercomputer incorporates IBM’s newly announced DCS9550 Disk Storage System. After passing extensive acceptance tests, the system has been integrated into an international “grid” of high-performance computing centres that will analyze data from the global ATLAS project, commencing in the summer of 2008.

A team of researchers from a consortium of 10 Canadian universities and TRIUMF are participating in the ATLAS experiment in Geneva. ATLAS will study proton-proton collisions at the highest energy ever achieved in the laboratory and will search for the elusive Higgs particle. The Higgs boson is an essential ingredient in the theory of how the mass of subatomic particles is generated.

The conditions created in the high-energy collisions will be similar to those that existed during the Big Bang.  To accomplish this, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) is building the world’s largest particle collider, the LHC, which has a circumference of 27 kilometers.

The Canadian team will use the supercomputer, located at TRIUMF in Vancouver, to analyze information churned out by the ATLAS experiment, estimated to be equivalent to half a million DVDs worth of data every year for as long as the experiment will run. TRIUMF’s IBM System Cluster 1350 was specially designed to handle the large amounts of data processing required by the CERN experiments.

The Tier-1 data centre was funded by grants to the consortium universities from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, as well as a contribution by IBM.

“We are extremely pleased to have the first phase of the data analysis centre complete,” said Michel Vetterli, a professor of physics at Simon Fraser University and TRIUMF, who is the leader of the Tier-1 project. “The system has performed very well during full-scale tests where it was incorporated into the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid.  The ground-breaking discoveries enabled by the Tier-1 will revolutionize the way we describe the universe at the most fundamental scale.”

"The CERN ATLAS experiment will push the boundaries of computational processing and data storage beyond anything the world has seen before," said Chris Pratt, Strategic Initiatives Executive, IBM Canada.  "IBM's technology and expertise is an integral part of enabling the next generation of global scientific exploration right here in Canada.”

The ATLAS-Canada Collaboration consists of: University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Carleton University, McGill University, Universite de Montreal, University of Regina, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, York University, and TRIUMF. For more information, visit 

TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for subatomic physics, is a multi-disciplinary particle accelerator facility that conducts cutting-edge research in particle and nuclear physics, as well as in advanced materials.  The laboratory is also a leader in the production of isotopes for medical applications.  TRIUMF is operated by a consortium of Canadian universities, under a contribution from the National Research Council of Canada.  The member universities are: University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Carleton University, Universite de Montreal, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, and University of Victoria. For more information, visit

CERN is building the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator — the 27-km Large Hadron Collider. The experiments are designed to provide a deeper understanding of the universe. For more information, visit

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