New network will promote 'SAVI' uses of technology

Imagine a Blue Jays game where fans, reporters and pundits are sharing their insight and commentary using a variety of media (videos, audio and pictures). Now, picture technology that realizes a surge of data traffic in one area and automatically allocates computing and network resources to the stadium and surrounding area to increase traffic, computing and storage capabilities, all the while ensuring emergency personnel continue to have their reliable.

This is the type of research that the new NSERC Strategic Network in Smart Applications on Virtual Infrastructure (SAVI), based at the University of Toronto, will undertake.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) awarded a five-year, $5 million grant to establish the network. It will be led by U of’T electrical and computer engineering professor Alberto Leon-Garcia. Its aim is to foster innovative application platforms, create new job opportunities in the computing and sectors and allow Canadians to share digital information quicker and easier.
Leon-Garcia and a team of 15 researchers at nine universities were awarded the grant to advance Canada’s position as an international leader in information technology. Five postdoctoral fellows each year and nearly 50 graduate students will support their efforts.

“We are thankful to NSERC for the support provided to develop this important research network,” said Cristina Amon,dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “Under the remarkable leadership of Professor Alberto Leon-Garcia, SAVI will provide the focal point for creating and expanding Canada’s virtual computing and networking infrastructure.”

The new network is also supported by nearly 20 industry and public sector partners, including IBM Canada, MTS Allstream, Telus, Ericsson Canada, Cisco and Juniper, which will provide $3.5-million over five years. Together they will foster growth in the sector by developing a skilled workforce, help Canadian companies grow and create made-in-Canada applications that will encourage businesses to adopt and adapt to the growing use of these platforms. SAVI has developed a unique approach to transfer research into practice with half of the network’s graduate students working on long-term projects while the other half focus on related, but shorter-term projects as interns in industry.

“[SAVI] will help us invest in Canadian projects that will create technological leadership that is invaluable, and strengthen the nation’s information and technology base,” said Leon-Garcia, who is also Canada Research Chair in Autonomic Service Architecture. Application platforms include the software and computing and network infrastructure that allow individuals to access applications and to share information and data through a range of devices, from smart phones, to portable computers and cameras. They also help governments and communities support participatory sensing, where individuals and communities can systematically collect and analyze data for use in discovery in areas such as health and wellness, education, or community-sustainable practices.

Current application platforms typically rely on data centres located far away from where they are most used. Leon-Garcia’s team is developing the notion of extended cloud computing that combine distant data centres with a smart edge network located closer to where they are used, reducing latencies when sharing and receiving information, and ensuring responsiveness in time-critical applications.

The aim is to build an extended cloud that will support bandwidth-rich and highly responsive applications for highly mobile users. For example, This type of technology will not only provide consumers with more capable apps but will also increase energy efficiency.

The SAVI Network will also develop a national test bed to support experimentation in future Internet protocols and architecture.

The network will also facilitate training opportunities for others in the field and increase graduate students’ interest in the network’s research. An annual design competition for fourth-year students will be launched and the network will introduce an internship program to serve as a bridge in the transfer of technology to industry.