Canada needs to seize the green energy opportunity

The world’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is in need of a green energy provider, and, according to Mohamed Cheriet, spokesperson for the GreenStar Network (GSN) project, that’s where Canada has the potential to make its mark.

Cheriet, a Professor in the Department of Synchromedia at the École de technologie supérieure in Montreal, gave an overview of the GSN project at the CANARIE Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Tuesday, June 21. The virtual AGM was videoconferenced across four sites using CANARIE’s advanced network and the GSN. Cybera’s Calgary facility was one of the broadcast locations, joining Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Cheriet showed a map plotting 2,000 datacentres in the world. Of those, he said that half are based in the United States (US), 57 in Canada, and the rest are spread around the world. These centres are one of the ICT sector’s largest energy consumers. As more and more research organizations, institutions and businesses of all sizes turn to cloud, virtualization and remote storage as data solutions, the reliance on ICT — and the amount of greenhouse gases this sector produces — is expected to grow. Currently, Cheriet noted, the ICT industry in the US accounts for 8% of its national power consumption. The carbon dioxide produced from that energy consumption is growing by at least 6% per year.

This is where Canada and the GSN come in.

The Calgary-based GreenStar Network node is operated by Cybera and powered by eight solar panels located on the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre.

As we’ve already noted in past blogs, the GSN project draws renewable energy from five nodes across Canada. Cybera is a local partner in the project, operating the Calgary solar-powered node located on the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre (pictured at right). With a global reach in mind, the GSN project has expanded overseas to host nodes in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, and Spain. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with partners in China, and one with Egypt is in the works.

Cheriet says Canada offers unique advantages which make it an ideal green energy producer. The country’s expanding investment into hydro, wind and solar resources means energy can be provisioned at a low price. Access to high-speed optical network infrastructure (such as that provided by CANARIE) enables high-performance connections with major content providers, allowing for large-scale research projects and leading-edge network-enabled platforms. This has also set the stage for the GSN project to experiment with key areas of ICT operation and management technology, namely virtualization, cloud management, carbon monitoring and energy optimization. The next step, argues Cheriet, is to continue rallying and building government and industry support for adopting green IT and green energy platforms.

CANARIE, a major funder of the project, is on board with GSN’s vision.
“If we can become a leader in green IT, it creates economic advantages for all Canadians,” said Mark Roman, CANARIE President and CEO.

As CANARIE begins its mandate renewal process, the GSN is one of many funded projects that demonstrate CANARIE’s impact on advancing Canada’s digital economy strategy. Both Roman and Mark Whitmore, Chair of CANARIE’s Board of Directors, highlighted the following as priority areas for the organization’s mandate renewal:

  • reach out to more Canadian users and enhance international collaborations
  • incorporate emerging technologies such as cloud and wireless
  • spearhead economic development and job creation

Strong collaborations remain a cornerstone to these plans, Whitmore noted, and CANARIE will continue to develop and support partnerships in Canada’s research, education and industry sectors.

So what does the upcoming year look like for you? Is green energy or some form of green IT on the horizon for your organization? Are you using Cybera’s or CANARIE’s advanced network for a project or pilot? We want to hear about it. Leave your comments below!

IPv6 – Welcome to the first day of the rest of the Internet’s life

The Internet – once thought bottomless and boundless – has finally reached a breaking point…..of sorts. Much like the transition to 10-digit local calling, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses have finally reached an exhaustion point and the official rollout of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) has begun.

Keeping in mind, IPv6 is hardly new technology. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) saw the writing on the wall nearly 12 years ago and developed IPv6 at that time to mitigate the foreseeable IPv4 address exhaustion.

The issue is making news now in 2011 because earlier this month the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) announced it has allocated the last IPv4 address blocks. Several months still remain before Regional Registries consume all their remaining regional IPv4 address pools, but experts are suggesting that Asia, Europe, and North America (in that order) will exhaust their address allocations around July 2011.

What’s interesting is how people are handling this news and the now-very-real need to transition to IPv6. For example, a press release issued by IPv6 Canada, a chapter of the North American IPv6 Task Force and IPv6Forum, contained this quote:

  • “Attempting to predict this date has been an interesting challenge over the years, given the chaotic nature of global Internet growth. The challenge ahead for the larger community will be to move past denial, mourning, and grief, and get on with the task of IPv6 deployment,” states Tony Hain, IPv6 Forum Fellow, Technical Director, North American IPv6 Task Force.

Denial? Mourning? Grief?
We all know that nobody likes change, but isn’t this supposed to be exciting news?

A day that no one (outside of the IETF that is) thought would arrive – the day when the Internet essentially isn’t big enough anymore – is now upon us. And instead of being stopped in our tracks, we’ve developed a way to keep it growing. We shouldn’t be mourning this – we should be celebrating it.

Some people are. Consider GogoNet, a social network that’s been built around supporting professionals making the jump to v6. They’ve got people talking, tweeting, connecting and sharing their experiences with IPv6. And then there’s the upcoming IPv6 Day planned for June 8, 2011, where Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai and Limelight Networks will join other major organizations to offer their content over IPv6 for a 24-hour “test flight”. This one-day event is hoped to motivate organizations to prepare their services for IPv6 transition.

Here in Canada, CANARIE is leading the charge and successfully running IPv6 across the country – which you can monitor in real-time via its online iPv6 Traffic Map. Cybera’s provincial backbone network in Alberta – CyberaNet – has been fully IPv6 compatible since 2005, however no members have made the switch from IPv4 yet. Last week Cybera’s president, Robin Winsor, was set up with access to IPv6 so that he can gain first-hand experience with it.  As a personal challenge (and test of the uptake rate), he’s attempting to conduct as much Internet interactions as he can on IPv6, tracking any hurdles and rewards along the way. His first hiccup: he couldn’t announce his personal challenge on Facebook because even though the newsfeed page is available on ipv6, apparently his profile page isn’t. Stay tuned to Cybera’s blog for the results of Winsor’s IPv6 challenge.

Ultimately, IPv6 adoption across North America is expected to take some time. Cybera’s Technical Operations Manager, Jean-Francois Amiot, noted some reasons for this in an earlier Cybera blog post. Common barriers include dealing with legacy equipment (i.e. basic switches and routers), incompatible firewalls, and coordinating IPv6 education for internal IT teams. Issues such as these are expected to delay IPv6 deployment. Some observers are predicting North American mass adoption will take at least 10 years.

Looking ahead, the important thing will be to remember to do just that: keep looking ahead. Internet usage continues to grow – at last count, 1.9 billion people or nearly four times the population of North America were connected to the Internet. Connectedness has become key in work, play and education. The recent growth and prevalence of social media, social networking and online communities speaks to how much we’ve come to depend on and live our lives through the Internet.

It may take us 10 years to adopt IPv6, but how long do we have until we will need IPv7 or 8? Are you looking ahead? Please leave comments below if you’ve had any experience yet with IPv6.

NEPTUNE Canada Amasses Ten Terabits of Data and Images since its Launch

Science magazine acknowledges NEPTUNE’s achievements as one of the major scientific breakthroughs for 2010

On December 08, 2009, real-time scientific data began to flow from NEPTUNE Canada, the world’s largest underwater observatory, to scientists around the world through Canada’s advanced network.

One year later, NEPTUNE Canada is generating massive volumes of data that is enabling oceanic science, research and discovery. Thanks to NEPTUNE, scientists around the world are collaborating and making important observations and discoveries about earth and ocean processes, climate change, commercial fish stocks and tectonic plate activity.

Enormous Amounts of Data Generated Daily

Every day, a vast amount of live data is generated from NEPTUNE Canada, the world’s largest cabled seafloor observatory located off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In fact, over 10 terabits of data have been accumulated since its launch, and nearly 7900 users have registered for NEPTUNE’s services.

The real-time data is amassed from over 250 complex science sensors and instruments that measure activity on the ocean floor. These sensors generate over 10 million scalar measurements, which are distributed to scientists and researchers across the province and around the world. Complex data sets are dispersed to researchers via BCNET’s provincial advanced network, which links to CANARIE’s national advanced network and 82 countries around the world.

The global observatory can also be accessed by schools and libraries through the Internet.

Global Recognition for NEPTUNE

One of its greatest accomplishments to date is the completion of the massive fibre optic infrastructure beneath the ocean floor off the west coast of Vancouver Island and the deployment of complex oceanic instruments and sensors that make use of the network.

These incredible accomplishments are being recognized in Science Magazine as one of the major scientific breakthroughs of 2011. As well, NEPTUNE collaborates with international partners including research scientists from Tongji University Shanghai, China, an Italian Ocean Technology Mission, industry partners from the West Coast and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

About NEPTUNE Canada

NEPTUNE Canada is building the world’s largest cabled seafloor observatory off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The network, which extends across the Juan de Fuca plate, will gather live data from a rich constellation of instruments deployed in a broad spectrum of undersea environments. Data will be transmitted via high-speed fibre optic communications from the seafloor to an innovative data archival system at the University of Victoria. This system will provide free Internet access to an immense wealth of data, both live and archived throughout the life of this planned 25-year project.