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World s Largest Disk Drive Expected to Give Canadian Bioinformatics Resource a Boost

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The Canadian Bioinformatics Resource stands to benefit greatly from an optical disk drive that Canada’s non-profit advanced Internet development organization, Canarie, is planning to build.

Canarie said that the Wavelength Disk Drive will be constructed around wavelengths of light on Canarie’s national optical research network, CA net 3. The wavelength disk drive will be more than 8000 km in circumference, making it the largest in the world, according to the organization.

The Canadian Bioinformatics Resource, a division of the National Research Council of Canada, already uses CA net 3 as a distributed network for the operation of its servers.

The new storage system acts as a large, shared disk drive and should speed operations performed on the current network, where computers send and receive data from each other instead of storing them in a shared location. This approach is limited by the slowest computer or slowest network link, according to Canarie.

Terry Dalton, IT manager for the National Research Council of Canada, said that the Bioinformatics Resource is faced with a number of data storage concerns due to the exponential increase in genomics data in recent years. “If we can share resources across a distributed network, that makes things much easier,” Dalton said.

He said the extra storage capacity would also ease data replication and help make data more readily available to the hundreds of researchers who need it. The Bioinformatics Resource currently relies on a central data storage facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as smaller replicate servers across Canada.

“Prior to this, networks have been too slow to think about tying them all together to form one large, coherent transparent environment,” Dalton said.

The new storage capacity will allow the Bioinformatics Resource to work with databases it is currently unable to store. For example, Dalton said, the human genome sequence would be available in a fully distributed fashion, fully accessible to all authorized users.

Canarie will deploy a proof-of-concept wavelength optical disk drive on its CA net 3 network over the next few months. The capacity of this trial disk drive is expected to be several gigabytes.

—BT

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