Canada launches 100 Gigabit network

Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network (CANARIE) has launched a 100 Gigabit computer network which will power advanced brain-mapping and surgery training applications that were not previously possible before the speed increase.

The network, which is powered by equipment from Ciena, is said to run over 12,000 times faster than the average 8Mb internet connections that Canadian citizens have access to.

A variety of new applications are now possible due to the extremely high speeds, including one called CBRain, which allows neurologists to map the human brain and make detailed 3D models based on the effects of certain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These models will be shared by doctors and researchers on the network, opening up new possibilities for research and treatment.

“You can experiment with this brain without using someone’s actual brain,” said Jim Roche, president and chief executive of CANARIE. 

A second project that has been showcased on the network is a high-definition 17-camera video feed of surgery training. The possibilities inherent with this combined with the 3D mapping of the other application means that virtual surgery could be carried out by trainee surgeons, improving overall competence in the field without risking anyone’s life.

The CANARIE network was already used to significant traffic and usage by 39,000 researchers at close to 200 universities and colleges in Canada. The network is also connected to 84 provincial and federal government labs and research centres, 58 hospitals and health networks, 31 cultural institutions, thousands of grade schools and over 100 peer networks in 80 other countries, making the substantial speed increase a phenomenal achievement that will benefit a large number of people.

The network is so large and extensively used that over 19,000TB of data was transferred across it in 2009, compared to only 160TB of data being housed in the US Library of Congress. With such a large amount of data travelling across the network all the time the upgrade to 100Gb was a much-needed move.

“We are years more advanced than what is available today,” said Éric Bernier, senior director of network architecture and services for CANARIE. “It’s important to be ahead of the pack. That’s where industry and innovation is built.”