Inside UBC's ARC Team: Current Endeavors & Initiatives with Ryan Thomson

At the heart of any organization's success lies effective communication and collaboration across its various departments. Here at UBC, our Advanced Research Computing (ARC) team is dedicated to not only supporting technology solutions and research but also ensuring seamless communication with the UBC research community. To learn more about this team and the current projects they are supporting, we spoke to Ryan Thomson, Systems Architect for ARC. Ryan’s team is dedicated to supporting technology solutions and research initiatives across the university.  

What is ARC working on right now? 

The ARC team is currently undertaking a significant upgrade to UBC ARC Sockeye, which resides in the university's data centre. This upgrade involves replacing the operating system and existing cluster management tools with open-source alternatives to ensure information security standards are maintained. The upgraded platform will continue to provide dedicated high-performance computing resources to researchers across all disciplines. Sockeye is accessible to all UBC researchers holding research funds, spanning various faculties and departments. Approximately 280 researchers and their research teams currently have access to Sockeye, facilitating their diverse research endeavors. 

In response to the growing demand for efficient service delivery, the ARC team is focused on infrastructure and operations automation. Utilizing tools such as Ansible, they aim to streamline processes for provisioning new hosts and servers, ensuring faster, more reliable service delivery. Despite challenges in learning new tools and keeping pace with technological advancements, their team remains dedicated to enhancing efficiency and service quality. 

Ryan also discussed the advantages of cloud computing for researchers, highlighting access to the latest hardware, higher-level abstractions tailored to specific research needs, and on-demand capacity provisioning. Cloud platforms offer flexibility and ease of access to pre-built tools and services, providing researchers with scalable resources and enhancing research capabilities. 

What is exciting about working at ARC? 

When asked about his favorite aspect of working on the ARC team, Ryan emphasized the satisfaction he derives from assisting researchers in achieving more in less time. He underscores the importance of staying current with technological advancements to efficiently deliver services. Ryan's passion lies in ensuring that UBC remains dynamic and effective in supporting research, ultimately benefiting the university community. 

The ARC team at UBC remains committed to supporting research excellence through technological innovation and infrastructure enhancement. By collaborating with key stakeholders and leveraging cutting-edge technologies, they strive to empower researchers and accelerate discoveries across diverse fields of study at UBC.  

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Article written by Aisha Ismail.