Memorial launches world-class high speed computer network

By Peter Morris

Where in the world can large organizations go to see one of the most advanced, high-speed computer networks in operation? To Memorial University, that's where.

Memorial's Department of Computing and Communications just completed a multi-million dollar project to develop this state-of-the-art computer network. In fact, the system, which is now operational on the St. John's campus, has already been the subject of interest from several large Canadian corporations and educational institutions and was recently recognized with a national award for innovation from the Canadian Information Productivity Awards Program. The award was presented to university officials at a ceremony in Toronto on Oct. 16.

The $4-million system, known as MUNet, was developed for the university by Digital Equipment of Canada with sub-contractors CISCO Systems Canada, NewTel Communications, and several other local firms. The project involved the installation of more than 10,000 computer network connections in 27 university buildings in St. John's, involving over 800 kilometres of cable -- 250 kilometres of which was fibre optic.

"This advanced system puts Memorial at the forefront of computer networking in North America, a fact that will help us in research and teaching and in recruiting and retaining top students and faculty, " said Dr. Arthur May, Memorial's president. "And by partnering with the private sector, we have been able to provide the university community with superior computing resources at a very reasonable cost."

Wilf Bussey, director of Computing and Communications, said the one-year project is a big step in computing for the university. "I would view this as a real state-of-the-art high performance computing environment which goes significantly beyond what we have been able to put in place before," he said.

The capabilities of the new network have also resulted in Digital Equipment providing the university with an advanced high performance computer that expands existing capabilities, and will be utilized in ongoing research projects (see related story: High-performance computer moves in). Rob Lloyd, general manager of CISCO Systems Canada, one of the primary sub-contractors to the MUNet project, had high praise for the new network and the university's computing capabilities in general.

"During the last five years, Memorial University has developed its network to the point where, when asked to identify our most advanced, full-deployed, leading edge, high bandwidth network, CISCO Canada turns first to Memorial."

Students, staff and faculty at the St. John's campus have enjoyed the new network for some months, but Mr. Bussey said that's not the end of the project. He said that in November engineering will start to extend MUNet to the university's Corner Brook campus, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.