Cybera President shares Cybera’s goals at BCNET

Robin Winsor, Cybera's President and CEO, took part in the Developments in Canadian National and Regional Advanced Networks session at BCNET Conference 2011 on Tuesday. The panel hosted speakers from CANARIE and most of the Canadian provincial advanced network organizations, who shared updates on each organization's recent accomplishments and future goals. Robin presented alongside Jim Ghadbane, Chief Technology Officer of CANARIE; Gerry Miller, Executive Director of MRnet; Cy Scheske, Executive Director of SRnet; Michael Hrybyk, Chief Executive Officer of BCNET; and Blair Brenot, Technology Innovation Leader for ORION.

Robin began his talk with a little background on Cybera. He shared its mission to spur and support innovation as an economic driver for Alberta through the use of cyberinfrastructure. He explained how Cybera grew out of predecessor Netera Alliance, where it was focused on networking and making sure the organization had the ability to facilitate the academic computing world. That is still fundamentally a part of what Cybera does, however, it is trying to expand its focus to also use cyberinfrastructure to leverage economic and business development growth.

Robin also shared Cybera's four-part strategy:

  • To connect people and to connect computers
  • To enable educators, entrepreneurs, and everyday users
  • To grow the user base and economy of scale
  • To harvest unused capacity and attract research and business

On the people side, Cybera has started to build out its network, CyberaNet. It is connecting with organizations such as Campus Alberta, TRLabs, TEC Edmonton and more. It is connecting to technology incubators in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge '€” major centres where startups are being supported with services such as network peering.

"I would argue that the pre-commercial folks are very much targets of what we should be doing," said Robin. He identified the presence of the Alberta SuperNet as a huge advantage for networking in Alberta, and said Cybera is leveraging that provincial framework to cross-connect into it and extend Cybera's reach. He also talked about Cybera's growing transit exchange service, which is expanding to Edmonton and Lethbridge. In addition, Cybera is facilitating the installation of a Google cache in Calgary, and Cybera is looking at trying to facilitate rapid data loading points for major cloud services, like Amazon, in the province.

According to Robin, an excellent way to enable people is through providing access to the cloud. One way to provide cloud services to academics is through a virtual computer lab (VCL). Cybera is looking into developing its own pilot VCL, which would be based in the Blackbridge data centre in Lethbridge, AB but accessible to Alberta universities. In addition, Cybera is partnering with Compute Canada to provide the cloud infrastructure for CANARIE's DAIR program, which is helping startups to create new, complex, large-scale products, and demonstrate them to customers, without building a costly R&D infrastructure themselves.

Next on Cybera's to-do list is a small town pilot project, where Cybera wants to give cloud services to every home and office building in the pilot town. Cybera is currently in discussions with Vulcan, AB, exploring options for service application and delivery.

Robin said the province is interested in creating a utility cloud. "I fundamentally believe that's what the ORANs should do, demonstrate technologies, pilot them, show what can be done, then, if the political will is there, the political masters run it through. Cybera can't build these things on provincial or national scale, but we can certainly show what can be done."

Robin closed by saying if Alberta wants to create an innovation economy, there needs to be a basis for that statement. "If we can build these provincial utility clouds, if we can get the cost of computing down, then we've got a chance to actually see and grow an innovation economy," he said.

What do you think is key to building an innovation economy? Leave your comments below.