SFU Surrey Research
Network Guide

SFU Surrey Research Computing


The SFU Surrey Research Labs and Network offer multi-disciplinary research opportunities in varied, specialized research areas.

The Research Network consists of roughly 60 workstations, and 20 servers. This network is supported by the Research Labs Manager and part-time help.

This guide gives an overview of the resources which comprise the Research Network.

The University has a policy on the fair use of information resources (policy number GP-24). Please view this at:




Acquiring a Research Computing Account

Research computing accounts are available to members of the SFU Surrey Research community, and those people sponsored by Research community members. Account creation/renewal forms should be completed, signed, and dropped off with the Research Labs Manager (Gordon Pritchard).

Once an application has been processed, a Research Network SysAdmin will email the account name and password to the Academic Computing Services (ACS) account of the applicant (all members of the University, including Grad students, are automatically eligible for an ACS account). If the applicant does not have an ACS account, the account name and password will be emailed to the sponsor of the applicant.

Immediately upon receiving the account name and password, the new account holder should log into the Research network, and change the password according to the guidelines detailed below in “Passwordâ€.

Maintaining your Password

You should change your password when you first receive your Research account and on a regular basis thereafter. It is very important for the security of your own files and for the security of the network itself to keep your password secret. Your new password should be difficult for someone to discover via educated guesswork or via brute guesswork using a computer. Here are some of the restrictions that our network will enforce, and suggestions regarding password selection:

To change your Research password, please visit:



Send an e-mail to: help@research.iat.sfu.ca


What Do I Get with my Research Account?

You gain access to workstations running a number of current Operating Systems (OS's). These are located in (currently) four SFU Surrey Research Labs:

You can access your research work from off-site. This is intended to facilitate conference work, collaborations, and general off-site work.

Your Research account is separate and distinct from both your SFU computing account, and your SFU Surrey campus account. The User-ID's will co-incide if you have a computer account, and password selection for all accounts is under your control.

No e-mail address or delivery services are provided with your Research account.

How fast is the Research Network?

The Research Network is based on Gigabit Ethernet. We have fully-manageable D-Link GigE switches, which allows us to segregate the network into isolated chunks, if necessary. Upon request, we can preserve bandwidth for you between workstations, so other general data traffic won't affect your Research.

Version control systems

We provide a CVS repository for every project, and we are presently looking into providing SVN repositories as well.

Is Wireless access available?

Yes, please contact the help address listed above with the MAC address for your wireless device. Our coverage area spans all of the research labs, and spills over to provide coverage in the classrooms located in the Core, and to the Bridge.

Research Computing Resources


The SFU Surrey Research Network consists of a mixture of PC's running WindowsXP Pro, and Linux (RedHat 9 or variations of this). There are also quite a number of Apple Mac OS-X workstations and laptops, and a few SGI workstations running IRIX (SGI-flavoured UNIX).

Your home-directory (U: in WindowsXP) is the same no matter which Operating System (OS) you choose to use, so documents can be accessed from whichever OS is most-suitable. The use of platform-independent file-formats is encouraged (such as XML, or OpenOffice formats). Home directory space is limited to 5GB, although greater Project space will be allocated.

If you have a dedicated Research workstation, off-site access to this particular machine will be supported via the Internet, including full remote X-windows forwarding via SSH, or Remote Desktop (where applicable). Each workstation receives a public IP-address.

If you are using a General Purpose (aka Drop-in) workstation, please make every attempt to store your data on the server (home-directory or U: drive). These machines are not assigned to anyone in particular, and may be in use the next time you arrive; you'll then need to use a different machine. It is also possible that these drop-in machines will need complete re-installation at times, and generally there will be no consultation before doing this work. Further, storing files locally on the Desktop (WinXP) will slow your system logon and logoff; please use your Home directory.

Technically Speaking

The desktop PC workstations are generally a 2.4GHz to 3GHz processor, either AMD or Intel (depending upon Lab). RAM is typically 1GB of DDR400 (PC3200). Hard-drives vary all over the map, but with home-directories served up from centralized file-servers, this is less important. Dual flat-panel LCD's are widely available. Ethernet connections are almost exclusivley GigaBit Ethernet. The most-common video card is the ASUS V9560, which is based on the nVidia FX5600, with 128MB DDR memory.

Network Servers

The SFU Surrey Research Network consists of file-servers, authentication and CVS servers, tape-backup-servers, a Research firewall, and quite a number of web-servers. File servers export home-directories, which are mounted by different hosts as required, thus avoiding consumption of local hard-drive space and centralizing administration.

Direct access to these servers is restricted to Research Systems Administrators, although anyone with a Research account can access their home-directories from offsite using Secure-Shell (SSH).

Technically Speaking

There are two file-servers based on dual-Xeon Intel CPU's running at 2.66GHz. They have 1GB of ECC/registered DDR memory, for data-integrity. Data storage is SCSI-attached at 160MB/s (Ultra160), 5 units each handling 1 Terabyte RAID-5, on a dedicated SCSI Ultra320 channel (permitting add-on storage without degrading bandwidth). Tape backup is also SCSI-attached, on a separate, dedicated SCSI channel. The Operating System disks in these servers are RAID-1 (one via software-RAID, the other using a 3Ware RAID controller) as an administrative recovery tool. Both servers feature three or four independent Gigabit Ethernet ports, bonded to provide a single-IP 3-4Gbit/s pipe.


Home directories are backed up daily on the file-servers. Project space is also backed up to tape. Web-server content is generally backed up also. There is no hard-and-fast limit on individual or project sizes, although if your usage becomes disproportionately large, the Research Systems Administrators will discuss this with you, including other options (such as a custom backup just for your project, to dedicated tapes).

Depending upon which Research Lab you are affiliated with, you will have CD-burning capabilities, and access to DVD-R burning capabilities also. Centralized DVD-burning is also available in our server-room; bring your special needs to the attention of the Research Systems Administrators.

If you want tape-backups, for transporting off-site, please contact the Research Systems Administrators. We will need to acquire the media, and consult with you. Supported tape-types include 2GB DAT, 20GB DLT, and 100GB LTO Ultrium. Please allow suitable lead-time for us all to achieve success...