Contributing to Canada’s growing digital infrastructure

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CANARIE and its provincial partners in Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN) have announced the results of their collaboration to extend the reach and capacity of this powerful digital asset. Canada’s NREN is an ultra-fast fibre-optic network connecting almost 2,000 institutions across the country to each other and to global peers. The network enables Canadians to participate in world-class research and innovation, as the size of digital data sets now common in advanced research require the specialized network capacity delivered by the NREN.

Canada’s NREN is a successful federal-provincial collaboration in which governance, operations and funding are delivered via a highly cooperative model, with the partners working to ensure the network continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of today’s data-intensive, highly collaborative research, education and innovation initiatives. CANARIE provides interprovincial and international network connectivity, while the provincial and territorial networks connect institutions within their jurisdictions.

With financial support from CANARIE during its 2012 – 2015 mandate, the NREN was extended to connect new institutions, and network capacity and redundancy were improved, strengthening the foundation supporting Canada’s digital pioneers.

“Investments in the NREN’s national digital infrastructure have allowed the University of Calgary to achieve connection speeds of up to 250 Gbps,” says Dr. Edward McCauley, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Calgary. “This is a vital achievement for our staff and students who are working on big data projects across a variety of fields. These researchers and scientists rely on the NREN’s powerful networking resource to access and share their findings with an international community.”

The following highlights some of the many projects completed over the past three years:

In British Columbia, CANARIE partnered with BCNET to support new connections from Vancouver Island University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the University of the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Community College to the NREN. In addition, B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia also benefitted from CANARIE’s funding program to deliver a high-speed, high-availability, redundant network between the two sites to ensure failsafe network operations.

In Alberta, CANARIE worked with its NREN partner Cybera to help fund ten projects to grow the networking capacity in Alberta’s urban centres and strengthen the connectivity between these regions. This, in turn, has made it possible for several Alberta institutions to achieve high-speed, reliable connections that they could not have obtained otherwise. It has also ensured that Alberta’s innovators have the necessary bandwidth resources to launch data-intensive initiatives.

In Saskatchewan, CANARIE and SRNET collaborated to improve opportunities for post-secondary distance learning in northern Saskatchewan. By sharing in the investment to extend SRNET’s fibre network into an adjacent northern community, enhanced education and research programs are now available in the areas of nursing, mining training and mining research. In addition to the economic benefits to the local region and province, this initiative significantly increases the opportunity for students to remain close to home and acquire the skills required for rewarding careers within their region.

In Manitoba, CANARIE and MRnet collaborated on a number of projects to increase network speeds and provide redundancy in the core MRnet network. These advances support MRnet members and strengthen its partnership with Merlin, the government agency responsible for IT support to the education community. The increase in core network speeds supports the shared services initiatives delivered by Merlin that result in significant savings, and set the stage for the implementation of new added value facilities for MRnet members.

In Ontario, CANARIE partnered with ORION to facilitate more reliable, resilient service to the 18 regional members of GTAnet, institutions responsible for billions of dollars in research and economic activity. ORION also benefitted from CANARIE funding to support new, critical Points of Presence in Kingston and York Region, providing enhanced capacity for thousands of researchers — especially those leveraging high performance computing centres — and supporting digital health startups and municipal economic development.

In Quebec, CANARIE and its NREN partner RISQ collaborated to replace all equipment on RISQ’s network backbone. This major overhaul provides increased network capacity and makes it possible for RISQ to deploy its first 100 gigabit per second (100 billion bits per second) service in the Montreal area, opening new windows of opportunity for RISQ and its members.

In New Brunswick, CANARIE and the New Brunswick Research and Education Network (NBREN)partnered in the construction of a new optical network through the province. CANARIE leveraged existing NBREN network facilities where available and the NBREN uses the newly-constructed CANARIE network to gain a more direct route to northern NB, increasing capacity and reliability for researchers and educators at seven campuses across the province.

In Nova Scotia, CANARIE and its partner ACORN-NS collaborated on seven projects to increase network capacity and redundancy to universities and community colleges, to support research and a new global centre in big data analytics. The increase in network capacity and redundancy also delivers better throughput for researchers reliant on the distributed high performance computing operations of ACENET.

"Digital infrastructure like the NREN supports the ongoing development of a strong digital economy as researchers, educators and innovators access and leverage widely distributed data and tools,” says Jim Ghadbane, President and CEO of CANARIE. “Together with our provincial and territorial network partners, we will continue to advance Canada’s NREN to ensure Canadians can lead in the creation of new knowledge, new products and new processes.”