University of Calgary

Information pipeline for Alberta’s big data

UToday HomeMay 30, 2012

As the amount of information explodes in the worlds of science and business, Alberta is expanding an ultra high-speed research network linking Calgary and Edmonton that is 80,000 times faster than the average household broadband connection.

It will grow a further 10 times in size in the next two years.

“Big data is on the way for researchers and businesses. Alberta is ready,” says Robin Winsor, president and CEO of Cybera, a not-for-profit Alberta organization with a mandate to keep Alberta on the forefront of technological advances concerning the Internet.

The Internet corridor is operated by CANARIE, Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network, which partners in Alberta with Cybera. The network can transmit 440 Gigabits per second. By the time you have finished reading this, it could have downloaded 3,000 high-definition movies. In two years, the corridor network will reach a capacity of 4.4 Terabits per second and connect every major city in Canada.

At the University of Calgary, the research network is used by universities transmitting data from ‘big science’ projects such as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, or social and business research involving data from mobile devices. The Square Kilometre Array, one of the world’s largest science initiatives, with roots in Calgary, will also rely on the network.

The new fibre-optic corridor is a reconfigurable system, which means the send and receive technology can be upgraded while using existing fibre in the ground. This reduces the need to acquire additional circuits as traffic increases.

“If you stand still in the world of networking, you will be run over,” says Winsor. “This advancement makes it easier for us to continually upgrade Cybera’s high-speed network in Alberta, CyberaNet—which links local researchers and innovators to the CANARIE network and its national resources—as well as to 100 similar advanced networks around the globe.”

According to Google experts, in 2003, humankind had created five exabytes (five billion gigabytes) of digital information since the beginning of time. By 2013, five exabytes will be produced every 10 minutes.