Compute Canada

Access Policy

1. Background

Since late in 1997, planning for HPCVL assumed some sort of access fee. Researchers at Queen's University, for example, were polled in late 1997 on their willingness to pay a modest fee from research grants to help purchase and maintain a computer to replace the existing IBM SP2. Subsequently, HPCVL was formed. Its efforts to obtain government funding (from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), from various Ontario agencies, and from NSERC), led to many discussions about the value of the proposed facilities to the researchers at member institutions, at other institutions, including industry.

During these discussions, we recognized that the institutions comprising HPCVL contributed significant resources not only in the application process but also in the operating budget as cash and in-kind. We also recognized that HPCVL was required by CFI to make 20% of its CFI-funded facilities available to researchers outside its member institutions. Because researchers at other institutions were mentioned in our applications as potential users of the proposed facilities, we assumed that fair sharing is an important component of this policy. CFI regulations governing our Innovation Fund HPC awards state that external users cannot be charged more than internal users (as part of the 20% availability commitment).

When applying for grants, HPCVL has consistently stated that an access fee would be collected and that the fee would be used to help cover a portion of our operating expenses. For budgeting purposes, the fee was treated as a portion of the each member institution's contributions (for internal users).

2. Access Categories

2.1 General Principles

Access to HPCVL is open to all researchers at member institutions and to selected researchers from across Canada. The principle has been included in all funding applications.

Five Access categories were created to respond to the needs of both academic and industrial users. A General Institutional Access category fits researchers in general. Because some researchers require access to larger resources than others, HPCVL established an Enhanced Institutional Access category. For example, researchers requiring 60 CPUs to be dedicated to their work for a short period of time or at a higher priority as the work is be under time constraint would pay a higher access fee. Because some researchers also perform contract research, a Contractual Research Institutional Access category was established. A Private Sector Access category allows HPCVL to attract companies interested in using HPCVL's facilities. Finally, to broaden the user base, HPCVL recognizes that a short trial period may be granted to potential new users under the Provisional Access category.

2.2.1 General Institutional Access (Category 1)

Category 1 is primarily aimed at an PI supporting a relatively small team of graduate students, post-docs, and research associates using the HPCVL facilities.

  • The PI of a research group is the only person to pay an access fee. The fee covers other users in the group, e.g., graduate students, post-docs, research associates, and staff.
  • Researchers collaborating on projects are not included in that same research group whether they are present at that institution or elsewhere.

2.2.2 Services

Category 1 level access includes the following services:

  • Unlimited low priority access to HPCVL facilities under general resource sharing principles such as batch queue streams (see the usage policy).
  • Access to basic porting, coding, and support help.
  • Access to software licensed to HPCVL under academic terms for generic research only.
  • This extends to each user in the research group.

2.2.3 Fee

  • The Category I level access (see the Access Fee Schedule).
  • Limitations on the number of active user accounts and allocated resources may apply for Cat. 1. A PI with a large team will be required to join HPCVL as an Enhanced Institutional Access level category.

2.3.1 Enhanced Institutional Access (Category 2)

Category 2 is primarily aimed at PIs with large teams and/or large resource requirements.

  • The PI of a research group is the only person to pay the access fee. The fee covers other user in the group (graduate students, post-docs, research associates, and staff).
  • Researchers collaborating on projects are not included in that same research group whether they are present at that institution or elsewhere.

2.3.2 Services

The Enhanced Access category includes the following services:

  • Unlimited mid-priority access to the HPCVL facilities under general resource sharing principles such as batch queue streams (see the draft usage policy).
  • Access to porting, coding, and support help.
  • Access to software licensed to HPCVL under academic terms for generic research only.
  • This extends to each user in the research group.

2.3.3 Fee

  • The Category II level access (see the Access Fee Schedule).
  • Some researchers may require on occasion for their generic research a large allocation of resources with a high priority above the usual level covered by the Category 2 level. Payment of an extra fee may need to be negotiated based on the expected resource usage.

2.4.1 Contractual Research Institutional Access (Category 3)

The Contractual Research Institutional Access category is aimed at researchers performing contract research. Fees will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis for more flexibility (cf. Category III of the Access Fee Schedule). Researchers are required to disclose any use of HPCVL resources for contract purposes so that appropriate action, if needed, can be taken to ensure that software licenses and other agreements are not endangered.

2.5.1 Private Sector Access (Category 4)

The Private-Sector category is aimed at companies interested in purchasing access to the HPCVL resources. Fees for this category must be negotiated on a case-by-case basis (cf. Category IV of the Access Fee Schedule).

2.6.1 Provisional Access (Category 5)

This category is aimed at potential new users desiring a short trial period before they join HPCVL. The provisional access category is left to the discretion of the Executive Director and is conditional on the availability of resources.

3. Responsibilities of Users

Each user must agree to abide by the HPCVL Usage and Security policies and practices, as well as, any other policies established by the HPCVL Board of Trustees. It is emphasized that:

  • The user recognizes that generic grant-supported research and contractual research must be done under distinct access categories. A researcher performing both types of research must join the appropriate access categories.
  • In accordance with the rules stated in the Usage Policy document, before a large resource allocation is allowed, the user will have made all the necessary efforts to optimize and parallelize their codes.

The need to meet various funding agency reporting requirements that can withstand an actual audit means that:

  • Each institutional user will have to report the time spent on a particular project involving HPCVL. At the end of each reporting period, each PI must ensure that an accounting report is submitted for each user in the PI's group. Appropriate reporting mechanisms will be provided by HPCVL.
  • Other reporting requirements now include papers published, invention/patent disclosures, students and PDFs trained, and grants received. Appropriate reporting mechanisms will be provided by HPCVL.

4. Access Administration

Access fees are administered in the following ways:

  • Fees are paid on a yearly basis in accordance with the rules of each access category as specified in the Access Fee Schedule.
  • The fee paid by a PI covers the year following the renewal, with fee changes applying only at the time of the renewal unless a PI upgrades their access category.
  • An access category change, for example, from Category 1 to Category 2, is paid in proportion of the remaining portion of the year on top of the fee already paid.
  • The access fees start to apply at the opening of the user accounts.