ORION upgrades and expands to U.S.

Events like the tornado that touched down in Northern Ontario during a storm earlier this week used to cause service outages on Lakehead University’s network a couple of months ago. Now that the university has backup support from the ORION network, Frank Christen, Lakehead’s manager of converged networks, says the university didn’t skip a beat.

“Prior to two months ago if we had this outage occurring we’d be out,” said Christen, adding that the university has it’s own backup line so it won’t lose Internet service.

ORION, which is owned and operated by the Optical Regional Advanced Network of Ontario, or ORANO, is providing Lakehead with a redundant link through the CANARIE’s CAnet 4 network.

“This is going to be beneficial for the college because they never had a redundant circuit,” said Christen. “If they never had the new ORION feed, they’d be down for two to three days.”

Lakehead’s feed to the network is covered by the new Gigabit Ethernet service that represents nearly 60 per cent of ORION’s network or 2,500 of 4,200 km of network fibre.

“Up here in Northern Ontario if you only have one link and it gets severed, that’s it,” said Christen.

Providing Lakehead with a redundant network began late last year when CANARIE added a fourth and fifth wavelength across the country, with one of them having a breakout in Thunder Bay, Ontario where Lakehead is located.

“The purpose of that was to provide ORANO for their ORION network for some backup to Thunder Bay,” said Rene Hatem, chief engineer at CANARIE.

In addition to building redundancy into Lakehead’s network, CANARIE and ORION have also embarked on a $12 million project, fully funded by CANARIE, to install Nortel Network’s ROADM software from Ottawa to Windsor linking to network hubs in New York and Chicago. ROADM, which stands for reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexing, allows ORION and CANARIE engineers to remotely manage the network, saving them time and money, said Sam Mokbel, ORION’s senior director of engineering and operations.

“The new technology allows network operators and service providers like us to design the network in such a way that remotely we can, through software, reconfigure the equipment to drop and insert traffic where we want it to,” said Mokbel. “It makes it much more efficient to operate a network.”

The deployment will be completed by November between Windsor and Ottawa. The second phase of the project, which involves the deployment of ROADM gear between North Bay and Peterborough and between St. Catharines and London, will be completed by March 2007, Mokbel added.

CANARIE acquired fibre from carriers Level 3 Communications and Telus, which runs from Chicago to New York through Windsor, Detroit, Ottawa and Montreal. ORION will have some wavelengths lit between Windsor and Detroit and Toronto and Ottawa, said CANARIE’s Hatem. Approximately a quarter of that bandwidth in those channels will be reserved for the ORION network, he added.

“The ROADM network gives us the capability to add 10 gigabit wavelengths at a low cost,” said Hatem. “With our own infrastructure, we don’t pay a monthly recurring cost to Bell or some other carrier.”

A similar network to the ORION network in Quebec called RISQ also recently announced a similar upgrade with ROADM technology.

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