The buzz from Canada’s conference for the technological elite

100 Gigabit networks is one of the big themes this week at the annual gathering of Canada's pioneers on the networking and computing frontiers —€” networks that can handle 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps), servers and modules set up for 100 Gbps, and long-distance fibre cables that can handle 100 Gbps. These are the topics of discussion, as we are almost a year away from these becoming reality. And people in industry are preparing while rubbing their hands in delight at the thought of what might come next: 400 Gigabits in 2015, and then 1 Terabyte in 2020? If you build it, the content will come; give people a chance to share more information and data and they will, and amazing cloud and collaboration initiatives will come from it.

Over 350 experts and executives from around the world have come to Canada's pacific playground to experience the whack-load of presentations and panels at the combined BCNet conference and High Performance Computing Symposium. Cybera has sent staff members to learn, network and, in my case, assist our WestGrid cohorts with their shared hosting duties.

Yesterday, our team heard —€” with great excitement — CANARIE's commitment to continue its successful DAIR program, which aids small-to-medium sized enterprises with testing and proving their products online. Today, our own Robin Winsor talked to a Digital Infrastructure crowd about Cybera's involvement in a range of initiatives —from cloud development, to peering connections, to green IT. It was pretty impressive to hear it all laid out!

As a room monitor, I have been assigned specific sessions to watch over and coordinate, meaning I've had no chance to choose and prepare for what I will be learning. The result, for me, has meant listening in on presentations that I might not have chosen for myself. Who knew that universities are using tutorial videos that allow students to add comments to specific time points? Or that Internet traffic has increased by four times in the past five years and infrastructure has been able to grow to compensate, despite earlier concerns that they could not?

I expected the high-end technology topics but I did not expect this high-tech educational crowd to have such a keen curiosity in how to run and secure their social media systems and, more specifically, what they should actually be doing with social media! This is great evidence of the hold that these tools now have over how we communicate, particularly with students and younger customers/users. It can no longer be dismissed as a gossip enabler or mere prop for PR professionals: everyone gains from increasing their discourses. Patric Lougheed, Instructional Technologist at the University of Victoria, and panelist in a social media discussion this morning, says he often has to convince older professors of the importance of engaging students —€” and the general public — online, including through Wikipedia (which, I was surprised to learn, is considered a social media tool). "Twitter and Wikipedia are full of mistakes and misconceptions," these professors will complain to him. "Then get online and fix those mistakes!" he counters.

I'm still learning as each new group of speakers and attendees file into the room. This afternoon, I will hear about mobile device security on university campuses, and then the policy headaches involved in maintaining network neutrality. It will be interesting to hear these challenges described and discussed!