ORION Launches Canada’s First Online Data Backup Service for R&E


The Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION) is launching Canada’s first backup storage service dedicated exclusively to research and education institutions.

The new service, unveiled at the Ontario Universities Computing Conference at the University of Ottawa last week, is designed to deliver operational benefits and economic efficiencies to universities, colleges and other research and education facilities in the province.

“This is very significant to Ontario’s postsecondary institutions and research-intensive facilities, because it allows them to use ORION to backup and store multiple terabytes of critical data in a robust and highly secure environment,” ORION President and CEO, Phil Baker, described. “The resulting benefits and efficiencies will be quite substantial.”

Offered in partnership with Toronto-based Storagepipe Solutions, the service will connect Storagepipe’s Ontario-based storage servers with the ORION network. The partnership with a commercial company means ORION, as a not for profit organization, offers data back-up and disaster recovery as a value added service to its members.

Describing the fee structure as “market leading pricing”, ORION spokesperson Andre Quenneville said rates will be “75 per cent of what is typically charged in the market”, depending on total requirements. That equates to about $500 to $600 per terabyte, he described.

License fees for the storage management software tool used, IBM Tivoli, are charged, although many members already own and use the software, which supports 128 bit AES data encryption.

“In consultation with our members about what services are most important, and what the organization could offer, data back-up was on the top of the list,” Quenneville described of the origin’s of the project. “We then looked at the vendors in the market, we researched the various topics connected with the service, and we continued the consultation with members in determining the type and kid of service we could offer, and the price points that leveraged the service over the ORION network.”

The ultra high-speed research and education network provides at least 10 gigabits per second, but is running at the limits of its original design, Quenneville described, adding that network planners are expecting to up its capacity to 100 Gbits within a year.

The data back-up service recently wrapped up a successful testing stage involving Queen’s and York Universities, evaluating the off-site backup storage in typical production conditions.

Queen’s delivered, stored and retrieved in excess of 200 terabytes of data in the test, but Quenneville points out that was just one school, and not the largest data user, either. The U of T, he cited as an example, has single transmissions of data that are several terabytes each, such as when connected to CERN and the Hadron collider experiments now underway in Europe.

“Collectively, we are approaching requirements in the petabyte range,” he continued. “There’s a wide variety of member data requirements, for everything from operational to academic to medical files, including anything from e-mails to raw HD files. Just the digital video data growth has been exponential, and overall, network managers say they are responsible for data storage that increases 25 to 50 per cent per year.”

Tackled individually, the burden of managing backup storage represents a significant resource and operational pressure for many research and education institutions.

“We expect this will be one of ORION’s most valuable services,” added ORION Technology Innovation Leader, Blair Brenot, who helped develop the service in consultation with ORION user institutions. “It makes a lot sense for institutions to leverage ORION’s capabilities, where speed and the ability to store and retrieve very large and critical data is absolutely vital,” he says.

“CIOs and IT managers are under pressure to support more productive deployment of available resources. Core IT activities such as data backup and storage account for an increasingly disproportionate share of these scarce resources which can be applied to other priorities,” said Brenot.

Access to a shared service also introduces a green information technology solution, by reducing an institution’s need to maintain costly and less efficient storage facilities.

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