The official newsletter of CEENGINE project, Issue 1, June 2011

A word from the chairman

photo of Andrey Mendkovich

There are few human communities whose activity depends on the information exchange as much as research and educational communities do. They are national research and educational networks (NREN) which are responsible for provision of these kinds of services for researches and academicians. In the last decades we saw the triumphal NREN expansion in the Europe and all over the world.

Since the moment of its establishment in 1994 CEENet is at the frontier of this expansion assisting NREN start up and development in numerous countries as well as their co-operation in various international projects. This activity was recognized by European Commission which accepted our proposal for a project re-enforcing and further stimulating our activities to prepare NRENs for a full participation in GEANT – the European research and education backbone network. This project – called CEENGINE – was launched in September 2010 and will last till June 2013. The newsletter you are reading is one of the results of CEENGINE project.

Make sure not to miss our call for Advisory Board nominees – this is your chance to influence our project.

Dr Andrey Mendkovich, CEENet Chairman

Call for Advisory Board Nominations

We are now in the process of establishing the Advisory Board of the CEENGINE. Advisory Board serves the role of a reflection group that will be presented with continuous updates of the project progress, in order to receive an early feedback leading to improved quality and effectiveness of our work. The role of Advisory Board is also to indicate the areas where support is needed and addressed in the course of the CEENGINE project.

The voluntary participation in the Advisory Board is open for representatives of NRENs and their users. Most of the work would be done on distance, however, should the need for face-to-face meetings arise, the cost your participation will be covered by the project.

The candidates should be nominated by email to Jacek Gajewski, gajewski@ceenet.org by June 30th, 2011.

NREN Policy Workshop: Bucharest, 7-8 November 2011

We have the pleasure to announce that the first CEENGINE Workshop will be hosted by the National Authority for Scientific Research of Romania (ANCS) and RoEduNet in Bucharest from 7th till 8th November 2011.

In the result of collaboration between four sponsoring projects: CEENGINE, GEANT, HP-SEE and SEERA-EI a joint event with the actual name “Eastern Europe Partnership Event” - Policies for Development of E-Infrastructures in Eastern European Countries” will address major issues related to the construction, funding and cooperation of eInfrastructures in our region.

The speakers of this exclusive event (the participation is limited to max. 60-100 persons) will include high level EU officials and representatives of major eInfrastructures projects from Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Balcans, Southern Caucasus and Asia. This workshop is a must for any eIfrastructure oriented NREN manager or user. Further information about the workshop, including draft programme is available here.

Policy Workshop programme

CEENGINE at a glance

Introduction to the project

Project Manager: Michal Przybylski, michal@everycom.pl

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CEENGINE is a project that follows the approach adopted by CEENet many years ago – this is the organic development and support of NRENs in evolutionary rather than revolutionary manner.

After a thorough study devoted to the current state and the future of CEENet, the Management Committee decided to engage more intensively and aggressively (even more than in the past) in supporting NRENs in the areas complementary to and enabling towards GÉANT3. Following this decision the Association decided to apply for external support from European Commission and has been awarded (in 2010) a contract for a project called CEENGINE. The contract envisages the following objectives:

Visit our website.

Identification of NREN’s users and support to user communities

Work Package 2

Managed by Krassimir Simonski, ksimonski@gmail.com

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Proper identification of important NREN's users and further support to user communities is a major task leading to creation of stable base of NREN supporters; this follows our belief that NRENs should perform stimulating role towards their users’ communities;

CEENGINE will employ several techniques for identification and assessment of our user base - currently we have distributed a basic questionnaire which will be followed by a deeper investigation, once the results of the questionnaire are analysed.

Preliminary results of the questionnaire

R&D support

Work package 4

Managed by Ramaz Kvatadze, ramaz@grena.ge

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NRENs are subject of constant development – mainly due to ever-changing technology, legal environment as well as new ways of interoperation with partners. This situation requires constant monitoring and even participation of NRENs in relevant research activities. For this purpose CEENGINE will create a competence database and will offer domain contact point services for NRENs and their users willing to participate in international research.

We have started process of creation of the Experts Working Group, based on voluntary participation, for investigation, sharing and dissemination of IT technologies and practices relevant for NRENs from CEENGINE region.

We have already supported several applications to the international funding bodies (FP7, TEMPUS, Eastern Partnership Programme, World Bank) for our members and we are currently investigating other opportunities. If you have an idea of a research project and are looking for partners or you would like to be member of Experts Working Group - please contact us.

Send us an email

NRENs support and development

Work Package 3

Managed by Andrey Mendkovich, asm@free.net

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The activity in WP3 is very much dependent on the first work package – there are no good NRENs if there are no users. And non-existence or weak performance of NRENs discourages user communities or greatly impedes their participation in collaborative international research. Therefore we believe that each country’s academic community needs dedicated research facilities and NREN is such facility.

Such as there is no good transport economy without good highways, there is no good international research collaboration without the access to international research facilities, including NRENs and GEANT; Therefore our activities in WP3 are focused on strengthening the position of NRENs in all aspects: technical, political and legal.

The works of WP3 in this phase of the project concentrate on the assessment of the state of NRENs by defining and measuring an objective NREN maturity index - a parameter which will be comparable between different NRENs and informative enough to provide meaningful ranking. We will soon approach our partners with the request to participate in our testing

Preliminary results of the questionnaire

Wokshops

Work Package 5

Managed by Oliver Popov, popov@dsv.su.se

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WP5 is a simple continuation of successful track of CEENet workshops.In the past, most of the CEENet activities focused around training people, where we have organised workshops on network management, network security, network deployment and development.

Within CEENGINE there are three workshops scheduled, one per each year of the project:

  • NREN Policy Workshop - this event is organised to support political position of NRENs. Actually this event is already scheduled in Bucharest from 7th till 8th November 2011 under the name “Eastern Europe Partnership Event” - Policies for Development of E-Infrastructures in Eastern European Countries”. This is the result of collaboration between four sponsoring projects: CEENGINE, GEANT, HP-SEE and SEERA-EI
  • NREN Technology Workshop - dedicated for NREN staff, and will be mainly focused on the technological aspects of network construction and operations, relevant tools and techniques.
  • Users Workshop - the main idea behind Users Workshop is to provide direct input from relevant funding bodies, potential project partners to NREN users (and NRENs themselves) on how to participate in EU research, who are the key players/partners, what are the procedures, what could be the contribution of Users in CEENGINE area to EU-research, and vice versa. It will also help NRENs to understand what kinds of network services are important to non-NREN users of the network.

Our surveys

Our surveys are important tools in gathering and updating preliminary knowledge about NRENs in interest of CEENGINE. There are two surveys currently running in CEENGINE and they both belong to two different workpackages:

  • WP2 “Support for Users and Users Consultancy” has released a questionnaire being the preliminary survey identifying the NRENs and their most important users. Based on results of the survey, Krassimir’s team will investigate deeper the list and status of important users, further followed by the analysis of their collaboration with home NREN and European users. If you want to read more about the results or fill in the questionnaire, please click here.
  • The tactics of WP3 “NREN Development and Support” is slightly different – the activity will first release a questionnaire about the technicalities of the NRENs which will create the base for further analysis. The core task of WP3 is the measurement of an objective benchmark of NREN – an index that will show the maturity of an NREN taking into account real network parameters.

In both cases we are using online questionnaire techniques (e.g. Google docs) in order to ensure quick response and to minimize the ecological footprint of the project.


Important: data confidentionality : We understand that some of the data provided by you may be considered sensitive. While in general we try to avoid asking for sensitive data, the respondents may still considered the responses confidential. In these - we believe rare – cases, we will use these data for analysis but we will conceal them in our reports to ensure protection of your sensitive data.

Sneak preview: early results of users survey

Recent activities of CEENGINE focused on the preliminary survey of NRENs of our region with the goal to verify their current situation and to identify their power users. 35 countries from the Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa were targeted by the study. 24 correct responses from NRENs were collected. There was no response from 6 GEANT members and from 5 countries that apparently did not establish an NREN or the NREN situation is unclear.

The subscribers of our newsletter are welcome to preview the preliminary results of the survey:

Financial involvement of governments

Out of 24 countries, 10 form their budget from government funding. Those include - Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, and Vietnam. Except for Vietnam and Armenia, all others are EU countries or EU pre-accession countries.

7 countries are granted government projects - Poland, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and Turkmenistan. This approach is similar to the previous and in some cases, it is difficult to distinguish between them. Therefore, the dispersion between the EU and non-EU associated countries is very similar too.

Still 6 countries have no financial support from the Governments at all - Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan. None of them is associated with the EU.

survey_financial_support

Governance models

Government is involved not only in the financial models of the NRENs but also in their governance models. Respectfully, 17 out of 24 countries report that the government is involved in one of the following roles:

  • "Government is founder of the NREN" - 7 countries including: Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Montenegro, Croatia, and Turkmenistan;
  • "NREN reports to Government" - 6 countries including: Poland, Latvia, Czech, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Kazakhstan;
  • "Government holds seats in the Board" - 4 countries including: Hungary, Moldova, Macedonia, Vietnam;
And still there are 7 countries where the government is not involved in the NREN management or governance. These are Georgia, Russia (but regarding FreeNet response only), Armenia, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan.

survey_nren_governance

NREN supporting policies

In almost all countries, there is a relevant policy to the NREN services and support for the research. It is either developed by the Government for the NRENs use, or is a part of a national strategy, still including government involvement. In 18 countries, it is a distinguished policy that refers to the NREN services. Still, in 6 countries there is no such distinctive policy in the form of a strategy. Those include: Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Russia (actually no answer), and Georgia.

survey_nren_policy

Number of Users

It is difficult to calculate the exact number of served institutions and users served by the surveyed NRENs. With a modest level of approximation, and again not including data from 11 countries plus Russia with only one NREN, we can provide the following estimates:

  • The number of institutions served by NRENs in the region exceeds 3,300 including only the universities, research labs and institutes. Beyond this number are the high and elementary schools. For Russia, the numbers are from FreeNet NREN only.
  • Respectfully, the number of students, researchers, and professors, can be estimated at more than 6.5 mln.
These numbers are highly impressive and deserve the attention of the EU to consider a dedicated policy for the region.

 

Conclusion 1. Government has a role in NREN

Government has critical role for the success of the research networking and therefore it is imperative to study the relations between the NREN and governments and the model of governmental support. Respectively, relevant questions to identify the models were included revealing a wide variety of approaches.

Almost all countries in the region rely on a mix of governmental funding and some business models for sustainability, typically acting as Internet service providers. NRENs with strong governmental support report more distinctive policies and success in the research projects using GEANT services and connectivity. Examples include Romania, Turkey, Latvia. On contrary, NRENs, which have problems to secure governmental funding (like Kazakhstan or Georgia) have not enough representation power to assist their user communities in services other than plain Internet connectivity. In result, their users do not collaborate effectively with partners from the GEANT map. Still others (like Bulgaria, Macedonia) are in transitional period and lack a clear stable model for government support. That governmental support is essential for the research networking and it also affects the role of the NRENs for development of national research as a whole. Governments supporting NRENs help the latter with representation power to unite and organize the research community to collaborate at national and international level. Where governments are involved in NREN steering and management bodies, the relations with NREN user communities are streamlined and well organized. On contrary, if government is just an observer or not available, the relations between NRENs and their users follow traditional ISP business models and relations, and there is no much involvement of the NRENs in the research activities at all (Ukraine).

Conclusion 2. NRENs are the catalysts of research activities

Overall, NRENs demonstrate involvement and understanding of the research needs and interests of their user communities. Most of them recognize the so called Power NREN Users as per the CEENGINE definition and recommend consulting them on the GEANT services and partnership. A good question to be asked about the role of the NRENs is whether they can become the entities to organize and lead their users in different research activities related to networking. By responding to the CEENGINE survey, the NRENs have indicated that they are concerned about this role and would assume it, if organized and supported by projects like CEENGINE or GEANT. Indeed, the role of NRENs to increase collaboration on international level should increase and services of this kind should be considered further. With the increased demands for collaboration and integration between the different ICT projects originating from the European research area, NRENs may become those coordination entities competent to deliver services and organize a collaborative environment at national and international level. Indeed, with the intensified efforts to integrate the region to the European research area, NRENs from the region could become the driving force into this process.

The full text of the deliverable will be soon available on our website (download section)

NREN presentation - UzSciNet

Logo UZSCINET

A bit of the history

The history of modern NREN in Uzbekistan started in 1996. In the course of political and financial changes brought by the newly gained independence of the country, the infrastructures and institutions responsible for exchange of information ceased to exist. The problem was so hard, that even the subscriptions to international scientific journals were cancelled. This situation has become unacceptable and in 1997 the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan decided that a specialized research infrastructure should be created with the objective to ensure the means of communication for research community. Thus the objective of newly established UZSCINET (Uzbekistan Scientific Network) was to serve Academy's internal network and the provider of an access to the Internet to research institutions.

From the very beginning of the project it was clear that we will need external support for our activities. After careful investigation we have established contacts with several international organisations interested in supporting developing countries:

  • Already in 1997 UZSCINET joined CEENET (Central and Eastern European Networking Association). Initially CEENet provided training courses for all of our personnel, who received basic education in IT. Later on CEENet supported us in the process of creation of national CERT and in the upgrade of already existing Cisco Academy to the regional level. CEENet has also organised several workshops on network construction and management in Tashkent.
  • Between 1998 and 2004 George Soros Foundation (OSIAF-Uzbekistan) was actively involved in the development of UZSCINET.
  • From 1999 to 2009, the UN Development Programme initiated the construction of unified computer network for research and education under the umbrella of "Capacity Building for Internet Technologies and Promotion in Uzbekistan" programme. Thanks to UNDP funding, the core network was continuously upgraded, enabling painless transition from humanitarian project to normal ISP.
  • In 2000 NATO Science Committee initiated the proposal of Virtual Silk Highway - a regional satellite network to interconnect NRENs in Central Asia. The project started in summer 2002 and connected UZSCINET and other NRENs in the region with pan-European satellite infrastructure via the central hub in Hamburg. Initially scheduled to last till the end of 2006, the project was later extended until July 1st, 2010. In total, NATO supported us for over 10 years with grants to expand and modernize the network and "Virtual Silk Road" gave us 8 years of free access to the Internet.

UZSCINET history

Thanks to active external support over the last 15 years, UZSCINET was able to achieve partial self-financing status in 2005 and right we are fully sustainable network. However, external support and international collaboration are essential to further development of our network

Infrastructure and services

UZSCINET currently enjoys a full status of Internet Service Provider in Uzbekistan. The network has 27 PoPs in Tashkent and in all regional centers of Uzbekistan. There are over 200 users of the network: universities, research institutes, healthcare providers and other organisations.

Over 20 km of own fiber optic lines are equipped with CISCO and ZTE hardware.

Our international connectivity of 18 Mbit/s is (according to Uzbekistan law) provided by the only authorized company - UzTelekom

UZSCINET connectivity map

Besides typical connectivity UZSCINET provides a range of services, including:

  • network security - we are hosting national CERT and support our users and customers with related services
  • network development - we support the development of LANs and campus networks, as an example, UZSCINET staff has designed and built a campus network for Kabul University in Afghanistan.
  • training - UZSCINET hosts the Regional Cisco Academy, supporting local academies in the region

CISCO Academy

Since UZSCINET has been established by Academy of Sciences, it has also its own programme related to the education in IT area. Already in 2001 we had organized Local CISCO Academy which has been later on upgraded to Regional Cisco Academy. Currently the Academy provides training courses at the level of CCNA, CCNP and in information security. So far, the Academy can boast more than 1000 students who have received their training here. Our regional academy was also the initiator of other local academies in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. In 2009 the UZSCINET has been recognised as one of the three best Cisco Academies in CIS countries.

 

USZCINET basic facts

Address: www.uzscinet.net

Status: full ISP, can serve all customers, including commercial

Governmental financing: none, self financing from customer's payments

Number of cities connected: 15

Dominant inter-city technology and speed: leased channels, 10Mbit/s shared between all customers

Cross border connections: None

World internet: 18Mbit/s, provided by national public operator

A chemist by love, a networker by choice: Andrey Mendkovich

photo of Andrey Mendkovich

My first experience as a network user was as early as 1986 when I was a visiting scientist in Orsted Institute of Copenhagen University. I was impressed by the technology, but being an acting chemist I could not even imagine that few years later I will initiate the NREN project.

There were two important events that shaped my future in these years. First, my home organization - Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry (ZIOC) has been selected as a host of the Computer Assistance to Chemical Research Center (CACR) with the objective to investigate the area now called e-science. Second, during “perestroika” the scientific information service existing in the USSR had been dismantled almost completely. As a newly elected head of CACR I could see no way to overcome the information starvation but to connect to NREN infrastructure already existing in some European countries and in the USA. Very soon we had found that we are missing just one pre-requisite - only a national network, not a single institute could be connected. So CACR had no choice but to establish FREEnet (what stands for network For Research Engineering and Education)., what happened on July 20th 1991. We could attribute this success to our highly qualified personnel, able to complete their tasks despite extremely hard financial situation facing research institutions in these years.

But this was not the end of the struggle - at that time, the existing COCOM restrictions banned IP connection to USSR/Russia. This forced us to use X25 and NJE protocols with corresponding gateways for international connectivity. This situation lasted for a couple of years and the international restrictions had been lifted as late as 1993.

The FREEnet was the first NREN and one of the first two IP networks established in Russia. Later a lot of things done by FREEnet may be named “the first in the country”: the first multicast usage; the first international ATM channel; the first IPv6 address block etc.

Of course time and efforts spent on FREEnet development had been torn out from my beloved chemistry, but frankly speaking I do not regret that, at least not much.

CEENGINE Newsletter is based on Fluid 960 Grid System, created by Stephen Bau, based on the 960 Grid System by Nathan Smith. Released under the GPL / MIT Licenses.