Canada’s collective digital plan

As the federal government recognizes that Canada needs an inclusive plan to foster a confident, globally competitive nation, so too, do we at ORION realize that the innovation economy we support needs a plan. And we’re taking cues from the Government of Canada’s Innovation Agenda, “The way forward is to act on a bold new vision: to build Canada as a global centre for innovation.” 

To do that, we’ve partnered with an army of digital infrastructure providers for the growth of Canada’s research and innovation community.  At CANHEIT/HPCS 2016, we got together with our higher education and computing peers to share our collective plans.

A national research and education network collaboration

Twelve provincial and territorial network partners and one national partner form Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN) — partners with whom ORION works to address the complex digital infrastructure challenges in Canada. Collectively, we provide powerful digital infrastructure that connects millions of Canadian researchers and educators to global data, tools, colleagues and classrooms.  

Today, the pace of change impacting both the technology underlying this infrastructure and the evolving needs of its users and stakeholders is rapid, and accelerating. And cost pressures never go away. So what do we do? 

Representatives from the NREN formed a power panel at CANHEIT/HPCS 2016 to discuss their strategic plan, including Gerry Miller (President and CEO, MRnet, Manitoba), Neil McClughan (President, SRNET, Saskatchewan), our own President and CEO representing Ontario, Alfonso Licata, Bala Kathiresan (President and CEO, BCNET, British Columbia), and Mark Wolff (Chief Technology Officer, CANARIE, Canada). 

A national plan

ORION and the NREN have both been on a path of evolution to ensure we continue to anticipate user needs, leverage new opportunities, and advance Canadians’ use of technologies to strengthen our knowledge economy. The partners in Canada’s NREN have embarked on a new approach to advance these outcomes. 

This plan will guide the progression of service delivery to our customers, how the NREN will self-organize to support collective efforts, and how the NREN will connect to the broader community. Each member of the NREN is different: we all have varied funding and operating models. Our panel touched on the challenges of operating as a collective, given our differences. But this challenge is also a strength, giving us regional variety, and an opportunity to learn from those who have taken unique paths. Above all, we have a common goal: to support the innovation economy through robust digital infrastructure. We know we are each part of a whole that is indispensable to that goal.    


Click on image for NREN presentation slides

Evolving services 

Several NREN partners also offer above-the-network IT services. In a second presentation, Alfonso, together with Bala Kathiresan of BCNET, and Barton Satchwell of Cybera, described the services we have piloted or implemented in our regions, and the breadth of technologies we are capable of supporting.  

Here in Ontario, ORION’s Nebula of cloud services offers our community a complete suite of valuable tools. ORION-connected institutions can take advantage of vetted solutions that best suit their need, from enhanced protection against cyber attacks to Internet service, and from data storage to streaming educational tools. 

We’re already talking about the potential for nationally-shared services across the NREN, even as we at ORION look at the services we offer to our community and how that could evolve.

Click on image to view the presentation about ORION's services

Click on image to view slides about ORION’s above-the-network IT services

Ontario welcomes Canada in 2017

Next year, both CANHEIT and HPCS will be hosted by our friends at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Having already done a site visit of this gorgeous campus and Canada’s first national capital, I know it’s going to be a memorable event. I look forward to seeing you all there to update you on our progress!


Click on the image to view 2017 conference video