The University of Alberta will be embarking on a series of projects to upgrade aging network infrastructure in its research facilities thanks in part to a recently awarded federal grant. The Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) program offered through the federal government awarded $9.85 million to the University of Alberta to assist in improving the quality of facilities for research. The $20 million Research Network Infrastructure Upgrade proposal, written in Information Services & Technology (IST), awarded $9.85 million of the funds through SIF, with matching funds of $10.15 million provided by the University of Alberta.

On September 8, 2016, Federal Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, Federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Alberta Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt, and University of Alberta President David Turpin were present to announce the distribution of $82.8 million in SIF awards in the Engineering Teaching and Learning Complex (ETLC). These grants from the federal government, matched by the university and province, will advance efforts to enhance research and innovation infrastructure on campus through $132 million in projects.

It provides a tremendous opportunity to upgrade “the network in buildings that have had the same network provision for a very long time,” says Dr. Scott Delinger, director of research computing in IST.

The upgrades to infrastructure will provide outstanding benefit to “all researchers: faculty, post-docs, grad and undergrad students, and research service labs [around campus] that have suffered from outdated networks for the research that they are doing,” says Delinger. “Research data volumes have increased dramatically over the past decade and the network needs to improve in order to support this data-intensive research.” The infrastructure upgrades will also enable faster network transfers and allow us to have a better network across campus. Additionally, upgrades will help researchers get better work done and also facilitate attracting new researchers to campus.

“We don’t want to just refresh the existing infrastructure; [we] don’t want to ‘repaint the walls’ of the network—we want to modernize,” says Delinger.

The next step for IST is to perform needs assessments for faculties and departments to determine which buildings are most in need of upgraded infrastructure. These collaborations “enable us to continue to improve the relationship between IST and the various faculties,” says Delinger. Once the needs assessments are completed, the work of upgrading networks can begin.

Announced earlier this year, the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) was created by the federal government as a time-limited program to provide up to $2 billion over the three years to accelerate infrastructure projects at universities and colleges across Canada.

To read more about the the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) click here.


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