The beginning of 2012 marked the mid-way of the CEENGINE project. By coincidence the end of 2011 witnessed several events that shall not pass unnoticed.
First of all, in early November, CEENet General Assembly took place and new CEENet Management Committee was elected. The GA meeting was an inspiring and refreshing event that recognized the achievements of CEENGINE project and the leading role of CEENet as the supporter and animator of regional research initiatives. At the same time, Octavian Rusu was appointed as the new coordinator of the project.
Just a day later, an important CEENGINE workshop dedicated to political support of NRENs – Eastern Europe Partnership Event – was held in Bucharest. With good attendance and programme, it was a milestone on the way towards NRENs sustainability and future participation in GEANT A month later, in December, the project has undergone its successful review in Brussels. Frankly speaking, it was a good opportunity to verify our findings with EC experts – we felt that our findings were received with much interest and the feedback received from the reviewers was encouraging. I wish the final review would leave the same impression.
There are also several changes to the newsletter - it will be more frequent and will also include our users.
We have also started preparations for NREN Technology Workshop in Baku in autumn 2012
Michal Przybylski, CEENGINE Project Manager
WP2 will intensify our cooperation with NREN users. The users are important factor in NRENs success – there are no NRENs without users and users need NRENs to cooperate with their national & international partners. We believe that only active participation of users in NREN activities can create a good foundation for NRENs sustainability.
In the nearest months we will try to acquire more information about the users, their research activities and partnerships, in order to understand what NRENs/GEANT services are of utmost importance. Updated users’ information will allow us to cluster them into groups that will be targeted by CEENGINE’s research support activities. Using the opportunity of continuous dialogue with the users, we will ask them to perform simple Internet connectivity test, in order to verify the areas where research networking needs further attention.
Also in this issue you will find the presentation of some of our users - we expect to demonstrate a number of our users in each future newsletter.
We were quite busy last year, supporting several consortia applying for external funding. And it seems that we are going to be busy also in 2012. There are a couple of opportunities on the horizon:
As always, CEENGINE is ready to support sensible proposals. Our expert teams are aware of relevant application processes and participation requirements and will provide assistance to interested partners from the region (information services, consortia forming, proposal pre-evaluation).
If you need the assistance, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The biggest challenge of WP3 in the coming quarters is to process NREN data, clean it to remove inconsistencies and finally to unify it, so collected information can be further used for creating NRENs compendium. Data unification is quite important process, because we are aiming at presenting comparable results for the whole region.
We are also starting our internship activities. The detailed internship programme is currently discussed and the objective is to launch the first call for internships in June-July 2011. The internships will be available to the network personnel willing to improve their skills and qualifications by assisting technical and operational teams in well-developed NRENs.
The Eastern Europe Partnership Event hosted by the National Authority for Scientific Research of Romania in collaboration with RoEduNet and the EC funded projects SEERA-EI, GÉANT, HP-SEE and CEENGINE was held in Bucharest on 7-8 November 2011.
The CEENGINE Policy workshop was an integral part of this two day meeting, which provided an opportunity for the stakeholders of e-Infrastructures in Eastern Europe, Western Balkans, South Caucasus and Central Asia (basically all participants in the CEENGINE FP7 project) to exchange their best practices, identify current problems and discuss how to deal with feature challenges. From the many presentations and round tables discussions, one could notice the great advances made in NRENs such as CESNET, RoEduNet and PIONER in moving from traditional network services to e-Infrastructures, as well as the strides being made in many other countries towards more comprehensive and sustainable research and education networking.
The crucial role of EC in embracing the concept of NREN and supporting mega international e-Infrastructures such as GEANT was reaffirmed again and again. In the case of CEENGINE project new ideas have been identified that recognize the specifics related to some of the CEENet members, where NREN concept is still side-tracked by the respective governments and sometimes these entities have to resort to certain commercial activities in order to persevere. Here along with the many initiatives and funding programs coming from EC, organizations like CEENet and projects like CEENGINE play the necessary catalytic in assisting the NRENs to work with their governments in developing coherent and creative strategies for academic networking. It is also one of the main objectives of the CEENGINE Global Outreach Concept (GOC), which was promoted in Bucharest.
At the moment the report from the EPE is being finalized by a small working group and when done it is expected that it would be widely distributed. This is also an opportunity to express our gratitude to many colleagues and friends from EC, TERENA, NASR, SEERA-EI, HP-SEE and naturally CEENGINE and CEENet who immensely contributed to the success of EPE.
The history of Albanian NREN is long and emotional. It can be quickly described as the set of one-off initiatives, forgotten in a while, with short period of development followed by much longer dark years of stagnation, interleaved for over 40 years. The whole story started in 1971, when the first computers were brought to Albania from China and installed in the Center of Mathematical Calculations. Unfortunately this one-off investment was not followed and the technology has not been updated for another 14 years - till 1985.
At this time an UNDP project was implemented and the old Center of Mathematical Calculus was transformed into the Institute of Informatics and Applied Mathematics (INIMA). The project included the construction (in cooperation with government) of the first Albanian metropolitan area network in Tirana. The network connected most of the ministries, faculties and research centers. Processing power was delivered by two mainframes and three minicomputers. Again, there was no follow-up and in 1993 the equipment – a technology of early eighties, was already obsolete and forced to be decommissioned.
Sa everything must have been restarted from scratch in 1993. Universities started building first LAN networks with TCP-IP protocol (usually equipped with only few computers) and Albanian ccTld (AL) was activated. The international connection was provided by dial-up link to EARN via Italy.
Wireless core & CEENet trainings
In 1996 UNDP supported Albania again and limited dial-up email service was offered by UNDP’s local office for non-profit organizations. Later on, thanks to the support of Soros Foundation, the small core of the academic network in Tirana was built using wireles P2P links. Simultaneously, Albanian researchers received extensive support from ISOC and CEENet, the organizations which provided training of key technical people involved in network construction in Tirana. The network was since then known as INIMA. In 1998 first commercial providers appeared in Albania, rendering UNDP and Soros Foundation missions obsolete and subsequently the organizations terminated their services. For INIMA this meant that the story restarted from the scratch again. But this time it was more prepared, thanks to good training on building NRENs in SE Europe provided by CEENet.
At the turn of the millenium, it was decided that Albanian NREN shall be organized according to best practices already exercised in other countries of the region. Besides the need to ensure constant government funding, one of the most important issues was to organize permanent international connectivity. INIMA was the signatory of the first Memorandum of Understanding in Thessaloniki (2000) making the foundation for the SEEREN project. In the meantime the NREN was still supported by various programmes of UNESCO, Max Plank Institute, CEENET and GRNET. But only in 2004 the international connectivity was provided to INIMA by SEEREN (2Mbit/s to GEANT, the cost of the link was covered in 100% by the European Commission). At this time the Albanian NREN was still limited to 9 organizations scattered over three locations in Tirana.
Soon the SEEREN project was over, so was the sponsored link to GEANT. INIMA got the proposal of continuing the connectivity within 6Net project, but this time with 50% co-financing. Since the NREN didn’t manage to secure constant government co-funding, it was unable to raise the funds necessary for own contribution to the project and international research connectivity was interrupted.
Another opportunity came in 2006, when SEEREN2 launched, but it was still too expensive (at co-financing level of 30%) for Albanian researchers to sustain international connectivity. SEELIGHT was another chance, but still the co-financing level was prohibitive so Albania did not participate. Moreover in 2005, the government has initiated the program of bringing Internet connectivity to schools – which was executed (like in many countries in Eastern Europe) with the participation of incumbent telecom operator. The NREN did not take part in this process.
The efforts to ensure continuous government support have failed, Albania did not get dedicated connection to international NREN community, but extensive collaboration with international partners allowed to improve the skills of Albanian technical team and its international visibility.
The Light in the Tunnel – Academic Network of Albania
In 2007, Italian and Albanian Governments signed the agreement on creation of modern Albanian NREN. The agreement included the design and implementation of the network and common services for the universities. The new project is financed by the Italian Development Corporation and the Albanian Ministry of Education and Sciences. Unfortunately even though the funding was available, no real activities were taken toward the actual construction of the network until 2010, when the first tender was announced. In the result, the network construction (which has been divided to the parts: NREN design, NREN provision, University Support for Bologna Process and NREN staff training) was awarded to consortium of Italian universities (CINECA and CASPUR) with the latter responsible for actual network design and deployment.
The newly designed network will connect 10 cities. The user base will include 11 public universities and their subsidiaries, Research Institutes and Technology Transfer Centers, HE & RTD agencies and other education institutions (where possible).
The network design itself is a challenging process. The dark fiber is available only in the capital city of Albania – Tirana, where optical MAN can be built. But there is already another project in place – GovNet (led by the National Agency of Information Society) which already connects HE institutions in Tirana and several other towns to the government network. Incumbent operator is the only choice outside the capital and without dark fiber offerings, it only provides capacity lease services (usually less than 100Mbit/s). There is an option for wireless links, but the frequencies are already crowded and due to the nature of the terrain (hills), single links usually require multi-hop connections.
An interesting question relates to the international connectivity. It is assumed in the current project, that international connection (to GEANT) shall be initially provided by consortium GARR (Italy). But there is only one fiber line available and there is no guarantee that it may be leased in a cost-effective manner. There is a desire for long-term lease of the fiber (what would give the long term independence for ANA) but again there is no funding available for this sort of investment. It was already exercised with SEELIGHT project and Albania could not afford its part of 0.5 MEuro while fully owned dark fiber would cost even 2.5MEuro. Given the small size of the country and low international collaboration (so far) it is very likely that such expensive investment will be questioned and thoroughly screened for its added value (with regards to commercial uplink)
Instead of summary
Albania has finally taken the decision to build an NREN with the help of the government. But there is a long way from the project initiation to the execution. Pre-construction works are going well, but (due to the scarcity of the infrastructure – both national and international) the actual construction of the network may be quite difficult. Once it is built – it must be made sustainable – whether by self-financing or by government funding – it will need to pay its part in national infrastructure and in international connectivity. Will the latter be delivered by GEANT or by commercial provider? – It is the most probably a question of cost-effectiveness and the decision of the government. The policy is for NREN is already there – it is mentioned in several government strategies. But the policy does not imply the funding. Low market competition (within the country and in international connectivity) does not promise cheap links and the “optical NREN” will remain a dream for the next couple of years.
It seems that still, the biggest problem of Albania is long term government policy with appropriate long term funding. But at the same time Albania needs good understanding and support from international networking community, including GEANT. We keep our fingers crossed for our Albanian friends!
ANA basic facts
Governmental financing: Financed by Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Number of cities connected: none, 11 planned
Dominant inter-city technology and speed: leased channels (planned)
Cross border connections: to Italy (planned)
World internet: National public operator and GEANT (via Italy, planned)
Center for Satellite Communications and Remote Sensing (ITU-CSCRS)is equipped with a highly capable ground receiving station unit - the first center established in Turkey to conduct application oriented projects in remote sensing and satellite communications technologies and serve national/international civil/military companies in their research, development, and educational activities.
CSCRS has the capabilities of acquiring images from remote sensing satellites (covering the Europe and neighborhoods – from Sweden to Sudan and from England to Kazakhstan). It is also able to process data, and send the products via satellite links to residential and foreign users.
The center also archives and processes the data from SPOT-2, SPOT-4, RADARSAT-1, ERS-2, NOAA-11, NOAA-14 & METEOSAT satellites. Its operations are certified by Radarsat Inc. with Operational and Product Certificate issued in November 2002 in Canada.
Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering of Dogus University in Istanbul specializes in the area of education and application of information technologies.
The research and teaching activities focus on:
International research collaboration is very important objective with the particular fields of interest in:
Geothermal Energy Research and Application Center (JEOMER) was established in May 2005 and (as the only university with own geothermal area in the campus) has the strongest geothermal infrastructure in Turkey, working on:
IZTECH JEOMER provides measurement, analysis, project, and consulting services to all energy sectors with its laboratories and portable devices. At the Center, there are devices which can measure physical and chemical properties of geothermal fluid, temperature and pressure gauges in drilling wells and heat conduction coefficient of the rocks.
Koç University, founded in 1993 is a non-profit private university in Istanbul
The Department of Chemistry has both theoretical and experimental research activities. Theoretical Chemistry, Quantum Chemistry and Statistical Thermodynamics are among the main theoretical research interests.:
University hosts important research on nanoparticles (such as quantum dots and superparamagnetic iron oxide), polymers and hybrid materials combining the two, with potential applications in contrast enhancement in MRI, imaging, drug targeting, sensors, lasers, magnetic separation, solar cells, LED, lasers, sensors, etc.
Middle East Technical University, founded in 1956, is one of the leading R&D universities in Turkey. The overall volume of grants awarded to METU is among the highest in Turkey and produces over 35% of total income. METU is important partner in many EU FPx, COST, EUREKA, MEDA, NATO, NSF, UN, World Bank & Jean Monnet projects.
The Center for Solar Energy Research and Applications is the major national center in the development of solar cell technologies including photovoltaic and solar thermal system for energy production. In particular research includes:
Galatasaray University, founded in 1992 by Turkey and France, is a state university teaching in French language. Galatasaray University is supported by a consortium of 31 French universities led by Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University.
European Studies and Documentation Center purpose is to carry out scientific researches within the field of study of the European Union, Council of Europe and other relevant international organizations, to build up documentation centre for the documentation of these organizations and transmitting the information obtained by international cooperation to pertinent institutions. The research include:
It started quite funny – in 1990 (when Romania just ended its period of communism, but the times were still violent and unstable) I was able to build my first computer using some partial documentation retrieved from the western libraries. The machine was based on Z80 processor, had 64kB RAM and very stable operating system. The funny thing is that this nice part of work (unique in our country of these times) has been built in the same year, when Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 and its first “office in a box” release of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In the western world, PC-XT was already 7 years old. This says something about the belated technological landscape we had to improve in the coming years... Anyway, this adventure was the beginning of a lifelong dedication to computers and networking.
In 1993 I was very excited to be the part of the team which installed the first Linux distribution in Romania. The floppies have been brought from abroad by my colleague Florin Manolache. After this awesome experience something even more exciting happened: we started the first dial up connection to the Internet and initiated the building of the campus network for Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi. Since then my professional life has split into parallel tracks: one track followed my teaching career while the other was devoted to the development of the campus network at the University and the Romanian NREN in the North-Eastern part of the country.
In 1996 Florin left for Carnegie Mellon University, leaving me behind with the small team hardly aware of the work yet to come. Having retarded infrastructure we needed to do a quantum leap, rather than partial improvement, something that could even our development level with what we have seen in the West. Our first efforts concentrated on building modern campus network at the University, integrating all communication services (data and voice) into a single infrastructure. From the first day we decided to introduce these services in every single room of the campus including student dormitories. Later on we focused on building Metropolitan Area Network in Iasi city. In 1999 it was a first fiber-based MAN in the NE of Romania – a project financed by the NATO Science for Peace programme. The next step was a country-wide NREN. We have immediately realized that we cannot go far without the support at national level. And building the NREN was quite a challenge, taking into consideration monopolistic market with unaffordable prices. Involvement in these activities somehow influenced my parallel teaching track – I shifted from teaching electronics physics to computer networks and operating systems.
Having an NREN allowed us to participate in several European and regional projects, including GEANT2, SEEREN1, SEEREN2, SEEFIRE. Cooperation with other NRENs convinced us that state-of-the-art communication infrastructure is a prerequisite for the success of research and education in the country. It was also clear that one of the most impeding factors was the necessity to lease capacity from the market. If this limitation was eliminated, RoEduNet, the Romanian NREN could be much more than some equipment connected through leased lines. We wanted to go for the fiber, but we couldn’t afford to built or buy one. But we had an advantage – since RoEduNet is governmental institution, why shouldn’t we explore government’s resources? I became obsessed with the idea, but it took over two years to find a solution and the support from authorities. Finally in 2006, we acquired one pair of fiber (6000 km) from state-owned company (Telecomunicatii CFR), providing telecommunication services for the railway sector in Romania. The most important fact was that the fiber and its maintenance has been provided for free...well, almost for free – because we had to give back some lambdas for the use of our partner (which was a marginal cost compared to commercial purchase or lease of fiber). OK, the fiber was there, but we also needed some transmission equipment with the capacity sufficient for the next 10 years of RoEduNet. I had the pleasure to coordinate a small and dedicated design team and at the end of 2008 we could boast 4300 km (extended to 5600 km in 2011) of fiber lighted up using ROADM capable DWDM equipment from Nortel (now Ciena). Our dream became reality – a country which joined free world in early 90’s, just after 15 years of development has a state-of-the-art, European-class research infrastructure and is a full member of the largest research infrastructure of the world – GEANT network. And we even have 100Gbit/s transmission in the core!
About my hobbies? In my spare time I read science fiction novels. I’m one of the millions of fans of Frank Herbert and his masterpiece Dune. I also appreciate the work of his son to continue to add value to the saga of Dune started by his father. One of my favorite quotes from Herbert’s novels is “Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere”. I use this as guidance in my work but I should also give credit to my education as physicist, the precision and logic of this science, things that made my dream possible. Beside reading I could also add my passion for driving, for there is no equal to the comfort and pleasure I find when I sit behind the steering wheel of my car.
From the editor: Recently Octavian joined our CEENGINE team as the project coordinator: we really hope that he will share his extraordinary experience and will contribute to the success of CEENGINE project and our member NRENs.