Setting the stage for 2015

Darin GrahamTo kick things off, I’d like to say Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that 2015 will be a year filled with new possibilities and wonderful success for you, your teams, and your organizations.

It’s 2015 already? I can’t believe how time has flown by this last year. I clearly remember sitting down in early January and planning for all the things that ORION wanted to accomplish over the year. All of ORION’s staff were busy developing an operational plan for things like network improvements and increased utilization, increasing outreach and sponsorships of member events, and working with vendors to build our Nebula cloud service offerings – all in direct support of you, our users.

Read ORION's 2014 Annual Snapshot: Share what you doWhen I look back over 2014, I can say that we didn’t accomplish everything we set out to do, but we did make a really good dent in it. To give you an idea of some of the things that happened over the last year, we’ve just released our annual report – ORION 2014 Snapshot. I think that you’ll see not only the huge contribution that ORION has made by supporting connectivity throughout the province for our research, education and innovation (RE&I) stakeholders, but more importantly the great contribution that the community has made through using the network. In the report you’ll see examples of wonderful stories that cover the 5 C’s of our digital infrastructure landscape – Connectivity, Community, Content, Computing and Cloud.

Faster than ever
The ORION network continues to be the “Backbone of Innovation” for Ontario, and the core of what we do. Last year we hosted the fastest optical data rate on a live network in North America. Partnering with Alcatel-Lucent, and using the facilities of our partner York University, we completed a successful 400 Gigabit per second test – a speed equivalent to nearly 500,000 iTunes downloads in a minute. Why are we doing this? It’s because the bandwidth utilization by the over 2 million students and researchers using the ORION network continues to increase at a rate of 50% per year – almost double the typical growth rate of the internet.

Upgraded connections
During 2014, more of our users upgraded their connections to ORION to 10Gbps. In response, we’ve invested nearly $2 million directly into improving the network. ORION continues to improve our over 30 Points of Presence (PoPs) throughout Ontario with better hardware, software and support infrastructure. We also targeted increased network reach and enhanced reliability in areas like York Region, the Kingston area, and from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury. This year, we have plans to support increased utilization and better access in other similar regions.

New users
The over 100 institutions connected to the network are looking for new ways to use the network to support their activities. This includes over 50% of the students in Ontario’s school boards – many of them from some of the largest in Canada – which are now connected. Our institutions are using the network every day for shared services, online learning, advanced computing, data sharing, cloud services, and leading-edge research advancements. And, with the focus on smart cities, including the role played by universities, colleges, hospitals, libraries and schools – all of whom are connected to ORION and major players in their own communities – ORION is working with municipalities to help them with their connectivity needs too.

Connecting to the cloud
Our users see ORION’s connection to a diverse and growing number of cloud services as an inexpensive but reliable way to tap into these offerings. To continue to support this need, we have increased the number and variety of cloud-based services – vetted by our technology experts – in our Nebula program. In addition to reduced ISP costs, many organizations are seeing significant savings as they use these services. Already, our business development team is talking to many of our organizations about how these value-add services can be tailored to fit their specific needs. We continue to add to the muster of offerings and partners of which you can find the current list on our website. Give us call as I’m sure we can help you too.

Strong partnerships
We remain committed to championing the needs of the RE&I community on your behalf. We’ve been working with the government to address the issue of ubiquitous, affordable connectivity across the province. We continue to support and participate in collaborative partnerships to help address those challenges that are too big for any one of us to solve alone. Our partnerships CANARIE and the other provincial networks, the Ontario government and local municipalities are critical to everyone’s success. With the formation of Compute Ontario and ORION’s direct support of them, the high performance computing landscape will take leaps forward during 2015. I encourage you to attend our Advanced Computing event, Research Computing on the Cloud, on March 5.

Nexus strategy project
2015 will be a big year for strategy planning for ORION. Not only are we looking at strategic initiatives over the next 3-4 years, but also looking at what ORION can do for the next 10-15 years to ensure that the RE&I backbone network continues to serve our stakeholders well into the future. To accomplish this strategic exercise, ORION launched the Nexus Project in 2014 – and it will continue through most of 2015. As a critical part of this initiative, we are asking all of our stakeholder institutions and user groups for their input. We’re having lots of “town hall”-like discussions, many one-on-one talks and phone calls, and idea-collection from teachers. We even have an online survey that we would appreciate you filling out so that we can get your direct input.

THINK with us!
All of the information gathered for the Nexus project will be used to shape not only the long-term, but I suspect that there will also be great ideas that we can implement over 2015 too. When we kicked off the Nexus project at our THINK.Conference last year we got lots of good ideas from attendees – you can get a summary report of the conference and those ideas here. For our 2015 THINK Conference, we’ll be summarizing the ideas collected so far for the Nexus Project. That presentation will be in addition to an exciting program of topics and speakers that can always be found at our annual conference – click here for program and registration.

I think that’s about it for now. 2015 is going to be another full year. I, and the ORION team, look forward to working with you to help you accomplish great things.