CANARIE completes Western Canada upgrade

The Western half of the CANARIE, the high-speed network for government and university researchers, now has the capability to quadruple its bandwidth with the completion of an optical upgrade, giving scientists there access to leading edge network speeds.

Last month technicians at Nortel Networks finished configuring gear that will allow up to 72 optical 10 Gigabit per second wavelengths to be sent to users in British Columbia and Alberta. More importantly, that will be increased to 40 Gbps wavelengths by the end of the year.

The Eastern half of the improved network was finished last December, with new nodes added in Chicago, Boston, New York, Windsor, Ont., and Toronto. One of the advantages of the installation, said Rene Hatem, CANARIE’s chief technology officer, is that upcoming increase in bandwidth will be achieved merely by adding interface cards to the Nortel equipment.

The hike in bandwidth came about through a change in philosophy at CANARIE, a not-for-profit organization for advanced Internet development, which decided it wanted to take its future into its owns hands.

“In the past we leased 10 gig wavelengths from carriers,” Hatem explained. But when demand from its two biggest users – researchers in the West and in the Toronto-Montreal areas – increased, it decided to buy dark fibre itself to supply those regions.

After a competitive bidding process which included bids from Cisco Systems, Meriton Networks, Ciena Corp and others, Nortel’s Optical Multiservice Edge 6500 optical convergence platform was chosen for the approximately $9 million project.

The platform, based on Nortel’s Common Photonic Layer (CPL), uses the company’s electronic Dynamically Compensating Optics (eDCO) to extend wavelength distances, manages and transports converged TDM, data and wavelength services.

For the Western half of the project, new reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexing (ROADM) nodes were added in Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, B.C., Kamloops, B.C. and Calgary, which allow CANARIE to easily add services.

For the time being CANARIE continues to buy capacity for researchers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The immediate advantages of the new architecture are speed of deployment and cost savings over buying capacity from service providers.

“The incremental cost of adding wavelengths now is really, really cheap,” said Hatem. “For roughly $100,000 we can light another 10 Gig, and soon 40 Gig, wavelengths. You can’t get that pricing or flexibility by going through a commercial solution.”

After only a few weeks, Western researchers haven’t yet seen much of a difference, Hatem conceded. But he noted that after the Eastern wing of the network was improved, Toronto’s Ryerson University was provided with a 10Gbps line so it could be a member of the CineGrid digital cinema project. It couldn’t have participated without that connection, he said.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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