How many of us wanted to get away on a road trip this summer? I had the chance to do just that, even during the pandemic, visiting many of our constituents in Northern Ontario. We check in every once in a while on the people and technology with whom we work remotely. Even though, in general, things run quite smoothly and our on-site monitoring catches the odd blip, the in-person connection is so important, and even more so during this difficult and different time.
Let the road trip begin!
ORION’s network spans over 6,000 kilometres all across Ontario and I had to cover 3,500 kilometres of that in 10 days. I put together my plan and headed out towards the end of June. I made my way around our sites in Northern Ontario conducting physical audits and inspections. The trip reminded me of how truly large the ORION network is and also how beautiful and peaceful Ontario is. The trip went well and I ran into very few hiccups; despite a few navigational issues.
My travels took me right past some of Ontario’s most beautiful sites including the Big Nickel, the Terry Fox Memorial, the Nipigon Bridge, and the Wawa Goose.
But it wasn’t all play, there was much work to be done.
Most of the time, ORION’s installations are plug and play or the organization has a dedicated network team to assist with the installations. But in the North, not all organizations have the resources, expertise or network team to do these installations. I was happy to get out there and support them.
The highlights of the trip included meeting constituents, visiting several of our Points of Presence (PoPs) for the first time, and working with members of the ORION engineering team on network upgrades. Since I’m a facilities guy, this trip was one of the first opportunities I had to perform technical network upgrades for my colleagues on the engineering team. It was nice to work closely with Shiva on module installations at Lakehead University, to troubleshoot issues with Dipesh in our Kirkland Lake PoP, and work on a service upgrade at Confederation College with Cary.
While I was up at Confederation College for the upgrade, I learned that my contact, Chris, was a jack-of-all-trades; a man of many hats. Not only was he the network-guy –slash-server-guy-slash-IT-guy at Confederation College, he was also heavily involved with cybersecurity. This speaks to the amazing talent and opportunities in the North; although usually limited, skilled staff are in high demand and have incredible diversity of work and opportunities for advancement.
During my trip I completed network service installations at the Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) in North Bay and Thunder Bay as part of the Next Generation Network Program (NGNP). It was great to have some time to speak to the RICs about the services they provide to small- and medium-sized enterprises in their regions.
My final destination of the tour was Sudbury. At our PoP there, I met up with a CANARIE colleague to work on equipment we host at the PoP for them. Together, we successfully turned up a portion of a new 100Gbps link between Winnipeg and Montreal. The activation was originally planned for March, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a big success getting this installation complete and helping CANARIE complete one of their initiatives. This was a huge step in helping to better connect Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN).
All in all, it was an extremely productive trip and I came away with a sense that our community really cares about what ORION is doing to help our friends and service the network in the North. Many of the constituents I met along the way were very curious about what I was doing and exactly what and how the ORION network was changing. They wanted to learn more and had a genuine interest in our work. They seemed to care for our success, especially in these changing times and it was my pleasure to help them out. I hope to visit them again soon.