MRnet: The Manitoba Research Network

mrnetBy Gerry Miller, Executive Director of MRnet

Operating behind the scenes across Canada'€™s major universities and research institutions is the National Research and Education Network (NREN). This powerful digital infrastructure connects Canadians to national and global data, tools, colleagues and classrooms that fuel the engine of innovation in today'€™s digital economy.

Twelve provincial and territorial network partners, together with CANARIE, collectively form the NREN. Each partner is unique in the focus of their networking capabilities, and the services they offer. In this post, I would like to outline the innovative activities happening in Manitoba.

CyberaNet is Alberta'€™s publicly-funded, ultra-high-speed network. In Manitoba, we have our own network, called MRnet. Established twenty years ago, MRnet is the high speed network serving the research and education community throughout the province. It carries traffic among all school boards, post-secondary institutions and some research centres. MRnet also links  to CANARIE'€™s network for connectivity that reaches nationally and internationally. Based on education enrollments, one out of every four Manitobans have access to MRnet. Outside of CANARIE'€™s backbone, the length of MRnet's network is about about 1,500 km.

With support from CANARIE, MRnet has established a carrier independent high speed private networking infrastructure using dark fibre and wavelengths, similar to the Cybera'€™s core network. Core network speeds are 10 GbE and edge connection speeds are one to 10 GbE. Our network traffic has been increasing 50% per year. In 2013-2014, it was 2.06 petabytes. The core network has point of presence (PoPs) in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson.

MRnet partners with Merlin, an agency within the provincial government which provides support to the secondary and post-secondary education communities in the province. This partnership has resulted in the provision of a number of shared services to the community, such as software licensing, email, network security, technical support, etc. Use of these shared services saves educators millions of dollars per year. It also provides access to students, teachers and researchers to facilities around the world which are crucial in their learning and discovery activities.

Most areas of research use the NREN for sharing and collaboration. Manitoba investigators in all disciplines, such as astrophysics, chemistry, computer science, medicine and the social sciences, need access to MRnet and the NREN to do their work.

MRnet works closely on many technical, operational, financial and governance issues with  other regional networks in the prairies, including SRnet and Cybera, as well as others across the country. This past September, MRnet was an organizing partner along with SRnet and Cybera of the Cyber Summit 2015. The cross-Prairies conference focused on the evolving discipline of data science and how it affects all citizens, from children to professionals.