The challenges confronting research networking and strategies to face them were the key topic areas at the annual meeting of the CCIRN (Co-ordinating Committee for Intercontinental Research Networking). It was held in Bruges (Brugge), Belgium, on 17-18 May before the start of the annual TERENA Networking Conference at the same location.
Almost 20 managers of research networking organisations in five continents gathered for lively and informal brainstorming on the future of research and education networking. Discussions revealed great similarities in the challenges that these organisations are facing today.
Research networks currently offer researchers and university teachers services that are ahead of those available on the commercial Internet market. But network innovation is occurring ever more rapidly and this makes it increasingly difficult – and imperative – for research networks to stay ahead of developments.
At the same time, research networks must continue to serve the needs of their very diverse users. The most advanced users such as the high-energy physics community are impatiently waiting for very advanced and innovative connections and services. At the same time, most users have much less sophisticated requirements and may feel less of a need for network innovation.
Where both kinds of user communities need to be served and are represented on the governing bodies of research networking organisations, important managerial decisions need to be made and potentially conflicting interests become apparent. There is therefore a need for research networking organisations world-wide to develop a strategy to deal with the current challenges.
In various discussion sessions in the CCIRN meeting, several aspects of such strategic issues were debated, following introductions from different perspectives.
Dorte Olesen, President of TERENA, presented the main recommendations from the EARNEST foresight study, which has identified important challenges in Europe. Many of these issues were found to be equally relevant to the representatives from North America, Asia, Australia and Latin America.
Doug Van Houweling, President and CEO of Internet2 in the United States, explained how his organisation is addressing challenges in its Strategic Plan, which is currently being developed. The plan is based on inclusiveness, bringing together efforts from research networkers at federal, regional and campus level, and in that sense meets one of the main recommendations formulated by EARNEST for the European situation.
Vasilis Maglaris, chairman of the Policy Committee of the European GN2 project, explained the structure and services of the GÉANT2 network and the strategy behind the plan for the successor project GN3, which is to be finalised by September 2008.
The first day of the CCIRN meeting had started with a presentation by Erik-Jan Bos (SURFnet, the Netherlands) about GLIF (the Global Lambda Integrated Facility). GLIF developments in optical networking and the automated provision of lightpath connections are at the forefront of world-wide developments. On the new GLIF world map, which was published a few days before the CCIRN meeting, it is shown that lambdas and open lightpath exchanges are available to users from the research community on a large scale especially in North America, while Europe and parts of Asia are much less visible on the map.
On the second day, meeting participants heard updates about a number of activities in different continents. Xing Li (CERNET, China) spoke about the Asia Future Internet Initiative, and about the current deployment of IPv6 in anticipation of the depletion of IPv4 address space, which is expected within the next 2-3 years.
Claudia Cordova (CLARA) gave an update on the status of continental research networking in Latin America, while Heather Boyles (Internet2) spoke about the US Federal Plan for Advanced Networking Research and Development, and Eric Tsang (CANARIE) presented the status of research networking in Canada. Jacqueline Brown (Pacific Northwest Gigapop, United States) gave a presentation about support to international health sciences communities.
Two presentations of an analytical and even philosophical nature served as introductions to lively debates on the second day of the meeting. Dai Davies (DANTE) presented his thoughts on the portfolio of services of research networking organisations and the underrated importance of operations in the networking environment. David Foster (CERN) described a view on research networking from a scientific perspective, analysing innovation cycles and underlining the need for research networking to be innovative in order to meet current and future needs of demanding scientific applications.
The CCIRN was established in 1987 and is the oldest consultative forum in the global research networking community. The annual CCIRN meetings bring together managers of research networking organisations from around the world for consultations and open discussions. CCIRN meetings are attended by small deputations appointed by the continental research networking organisations: TERENA (Europe), APAN (Asia-Pacific), CLARA (Latin America) and CANARIE, Internet2 and National LambdaRail (North America).
The meeting in Bruges (Brugge), in Belgium, was hosted by TERENA and chaired by the European Co-Chair of the CCIRN, Kees Neggers (SURFnet).
TERENA Networking Conference 2008 : http://tnc2008.terena.org/.
CCIRN homepage : http://www.ccirn.org/.