The official newsletter of CEENGINE project, Issue 4, March 2012

Foreword

photo of Michal Przybylski

This is the fourth issue of our newsletter, but already a second with increased frequency. Recently our newsletters are more devoted to our members and their users rather than to the project itself. And no wonder, because we rather tend to focus on analysis and research of the GEANT-NREN, NREN-Users and NREN-policy makers relations.

March was an interesting time for any NRENs community member in Europe. GEANT 3+ project is now under preparation and we have heard the proposal of new membership scheme – quite interesting for our members, since becoming “GN research member” would give the chance of participation in important research activities to those who cannot afford GEANT connectivity costs.

Some of you may have participated in recent consultations regarding GN3+ in Munich – I believe this topic will be hot, unitl GN3+ proposal is submitted to the EC. And I promise we will be here to serve you with the feedback on our findings.

New proposal – if adopted – will allow GEANT to operate in more cost-effective manner and to enlarge its reach, reinforcing its position at the forefront of European research. Why do I mention it in CEENGINE newsletter? Because we were probably the first one to officially ask for changing membership scheme. So far, the major problem in accepting new GEANT members was high connectivity cost that due to cost-sharing scheme, resulted in higher GEANT subscriptions to everyone. As the natural process, GEANT members did not prefer expansion to regions, where connectivity is expensive (like Eastern Europe). And quite often, our NRENs could not afford their contribution to GEANT.

Besides, this newsletter will be dominated by Bulgaria. We will tell you all we know about BREN and some of its prominent users. You will also have the chance to learn more about Krasimir Simonski – our Chairman and BREN leader. But for Shopska salad and Rakia, you’d better go to Sophia.

Michal Przybylski, CEENGINE Project Manager

What's up

  • Krasimir, Peter and Ramaz are very busy with investigating countries and finding advanced NREN users. This hopefully should be soon integrated into our database for better partner matching services in WP4.
  • Octavian’s team prepares the tool that will serve the purpose of assessing NREN users’ Internet experience. The testing shall start by the time you read this newsletter.
  • Andrey is finalizing the concept of NREN internships (staff/students training). We will be looking for the hosts soon!
  • NRENs Technical Workshop is set for Autumn 2012
  • Regional cross-border-fiber network concept is exercised by RoEduNet
  • CEENet members have submitted 4 new project proposals and one more is being finalized.

NREN users

Work package 2

Managed by Krassimir Simonski, ksimonski@gmail.com

photo

WP2 continues the consultations with NRENs and users to build advanced user profiles. So far we have processed 34 users and we are slowly migrating them to our WIKI, which will be publicly available by August 2012. So far we have analysed Bulgaria, Moldova, Turkey, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, Poland, Hungary, Kyrgistan and Kazakhstan. Even before the online database is ready, we will gradually introduce our user community via this newsletter - today please enjoy our presentation of most important Bulgarian power users, including our future NOC team.

Helpdesk

Work package 4

Managed by Ramaz Kvatadze, ramaz@grena.ge

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Last three months were very busy for WP4 team. Our experts supported our NREN partners in the development of the following project proposals:

  • CAMATHTEL (TEMPUS IV) – Related to introduction of modern educational technologies for engineering and natural science studies in Southern Caucasus. Project is managed by German partner with participation of French, Finnish, Armenian and Georgian partners
  • DELPHUS (TEMPUS IV) – Focusing on e-learning for promoted higher-education user services. This project is also managed by German partner and participants include Estonia, Lithuania, Armenia and Georgia
  • PEAK (TEMPUS IV) – A program for early student employability based on practice-oriented knowledge. With German coordinator, the project partners come from Austria, Greece, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan
  • NATO SfP project related to protection of goods and documents (co-managed by Bulgaria and Georgia with participants from Armenia and Moldova)
  • NATO SfP project related to CERT trainings in Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus (co-managed by Poland and Moldova with partners from Bulgaria, Sweden, Estonia, Georgia and Armenia)

BREN – a story from Bulgaria

The story of Bulgarian NREN’s success starts in 1985 when Academician Kiril Boyanow (who is now the Honorary Chair of BREN) founded Departament of Distributed Systems and Networking within the structures of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia. The department (which over the time changed its name to Departament of Computer Networks and Architectures) was the first coordinator of Bulgarian Education and Research Information Network (NERIN). In early 90’s NERIN established so called “national network node” in order to connect universities, research institutes, libraries, secondary schools, etc. The national links were procured from BULPAC (public operator) and the first international connection linked Sofia with Vienna, using X.25 protocol with 4.8Kbit/s speed.

  • In 1991 Bulgaria was accepted as EARN (European Academic Research Network) member and for this purpose a non-profit association UNICOM-B (UNIversity COMmunications - Bulgaria) was founded by the ministry of Education and Science.
  • In 1994 Bulgaria managed to get the support from TEMPUS JEP+ programme ("Establishment of a computerized information network in Bulgarian universities")
  • International connectivity remained more or less at the same level for 7 years, and it was only in 1998, when UNICOM-B got (then) high speed connectivity of 128Kbit/s – to GRNET, which used national government’s funds to connect the countries in the region.
  • In 2001 SEEREN project increased Bulgarian link to 6Mbit/s.
  • In August 2003 the link was upgraded to 24 Mbit/s.
  • In 2004 Bulgaria (then represented by ISTF – Information Society Technologies Foundation managed by the State Agency for Information Technology and Communications) joined GEANT project and on March 2005 an add-drop multiplexer on 155 Mbit/s link Athens-Belgrade has been installed (so ISTF was able to use effectively only 34Mbit/s capacity of this link.
  • In 2009 the Stage Agency for Information Technology and Communications has been closed and its duties were taken over by the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and communication. Soon the coordination of NREN was given to newly established organization: BREN – Bulgarian Research and Education Network. And it was only in 2009 when BREN got decent connectivity (thanks to GEANT2 project) of 1Gbit/s. Since then BREN hosts important GEANT PoP connecting Athens, Bucharest, Budapest and Istanbul.

BREN association

Bulgarian Research and Education Network is supervised by the non-profit association with the same name. The association has been established in 2006 by the following group:

  • Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications
  • Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
  • National Research Network Association
  • Board of Rectors in Bulgaria Association

The objectives of BREN go beyond standard NREN duties – it is supposed to be the organization triggering and stimulating integration of Bulgarian educational, scientific, and cultural resources in the global information space.

As could be clearly derived from the composition of the association, its user base includes universities, higher education institutions and research institutes. BREN is also responsible for maintaining research infrastructures information portals and providing relevant IT training to research communities in Bulgaria.

Topology

BREN is currently operating network in single-ring topology. Inter-city links are built using Gigabit Ethernet. What is interesting, BREN does not own fiber or transmission technology (inter-city) - instead it was built on government's network using MPLS protocol, where virtual Gigabit Ethernet channels were provided for exclusive BREN's use.

Connectivity to GEANT uses 1Gbit/s link via the DANTE PoP in Sofia. There is also traffic exchange with peering operators also based on Gigabit Ethernet technology. The ring bases on Ethernet switches, with one central router in Sofia.

Average level of research traffic from GEANT to the whole network in 2011 was approx. 40.5 Mbit/s, current statistics at http://netmon.acad.bg/ (as of 2012.03) show approximately 200Mbit/s of average traffic from GEANT, with peaks reaching 400Mbit/s.

Close analysis of current network traffic shows that only in few places in the network, the traffic in the national backbone exceeds 100Mbit/s, what means that the backbone capacity of 1Gbit/s is sufficient for current users demand.

Operating Business Model & NRENs costs

The business model of BREN is different than that used by URAN, UARNET or UZSCINET, already analysed in our newsletters. First of all, BREN budget is composed in 43% of EU subsidy as part of GEANT project, while the remaining 57% come from national sources, mainly the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science of Bulgaria. Users are only charged for the last mile of their connectivity.

Even though Bulgaria is medium sized country (comparable in size to Hungary or Czech Republic), yet approx. 50% of its budget are spent on international connectivity, and only 30% on national/regional network operations, maintenance and development. These are odd numbers that show that the NREN budget is basically drained by high international connectivity costs. A yearly cost of link to GEANT is 66% higher than the yearly cost of national NREN’s infrastructure upkeep.

If we take into account the ratio of international link cost to the costs of national infrastructure, Bulgaria and Latvia are at the worst positions, spending majority of their budget for just connecting to GEANT. Quick comparison of relevant spending in similar-sized countries is shown below*
(*) all cost analysis are based on TERENA compendium 2011 (http://www.terena.org/activities/compendium/)

The first image shows the absolute spending on backbone and international connections (in MEUR) for selected EU countries. The second shows the share of GEANT connectivity costs and national infrastructure costs in NREN budget.

Even if we look at absolute amounts, we can see that the whole budget of BREN is one of the lowest in compared set of NRENs. Yet we have to admit, that BREN pays relatively lower price for GEANT connectivity, compared to other countries too (but it gets 10 times lower connectivity speed than compared CESNET or SURFNET networks). It is also important to mention that BREN still uses the DWS service from Dante that is calculated in the subscription fee.

Summary

BREN is a well established NREN in Bulgaria that seems sustainable in the long term. Current capacity seems to be sufficient for NREN users, though the load of the GEANT link sometimes reaches 40% which is an indicator of the need to upgrade it in the near future. This may be problematic, since already 50% of the NREN budget is spent on connecting to GEANT. Any increase of this cost may be critical for the network.

 

BREN basic facts

Address: www.bren.bg

Status:Non-profit association

Governmental financing: Co-financed by the Ministry of Transport Information Technology and Communications

Number of cities connected: 9

Dominant inter-city technology and speed: leased channels (WAN ethernet 1Gbit/s)

Cross border connections: none

World internet: GEANT (incl. DWS), local peerings

Bulgaria has advanced users too!

There are 51 higher education institutions in Bulgaria - universities, specialized higher schools and colleges, 37 of which are public and the rest - private. All public universities are connected to BREN. Also a number of instututes of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences are the customers of BREN. Below we show three selected users that already established their position in Bulgarian and international research community.

Bulgarian Supercomputer Center

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http://www.scc.acad.bg
Vassil Grancharov
Tel: +359 2 949266
E-mail: vgrancharov@esmis.government.bg

The Bulgarian Supercomputer Center is operated by the Bulgrian Agency for ICT, a.k.a. ESMIS.

The supercomputer center (approx. 28 Tflops power) is open for cooperation in all research areas requiring high level of computational power. It has the organizational capacity to get associated in all kinds of research projects both EU funded and international consortiums of universal type (the research history includes project like PRACE, SEEREN, GRID). Currently connected to GEANT node in Sofia via BREN. The center already communicates the need for an upgrade of the connectivity to 10Gbit/s, which is considered within SEELight project.

Hosted software includes BLAS, GAMESS-US, NAMD, CPMD, LAMMPS.

Current research topics include:

  • Non-ionogenic surfactants at the gas/water interface
  • Functionalization on the energy spectrum and on the electronic structure of doped carbon nanotubes
  • Spin-state ordering of spin-hybrid metal-organic complexes with magnetic properties
  • Simulation and modelling of polyaniline oligomers
  • Molecular interactions and their applications in new materials development and drug design
  • Numerical homogenization. Linear elasticity simulations
  • Transport of air pollutants and the connection between global climate change and air pollution
  • Influence of climate changes on high pollution levels in sub-urban areas

Bulgarian Supercomputer Center is interested in using the following GEANT services: eduGAIN, eduPERT, perfSONAR, eduPKI, MD BoD

National Laboratory of Telematics

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http://mobility.cc.bas.bg
Rado Yoshinov, Ph.D.
E-mail : ltmailbox@cc.bas.bg
Phone : +359 2 873 26 19

National Laboratory of Telematics is a leading organization in the area of ICT research. Initially established as the computer center of Bulgarian Academy if Sciences, it later evolved to self-sustainable organisation involved in may EU-funded projects. It is one of the most succesfful and recognized organizations representing Bulgaria in several educational businesses such as ECDL, language training, certifiacations, and others. It also trains the postgraduate students of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in ICT skills.

The laboratory will serve as the Network Operations Center of BREN, thus is directly interested in all GEANT services. It will also serve as GEANT services helpdesk for BREN users. The laboratory already conducts works on GEANT services including perfSONAR, eduPKI and educonf.

Other areas of expertise include:

  • Education and application of information technologies, based on Microsoft solutions
  • Development and maintenance of database systems for the scientific libraries of BAS
  • Web-site design and hosting for research users
  • Development of network infrastructure of main BAS campus and for specialized schools for children with disabilities
  • Development of distributed interactive environments for distance learning, courseware and self assessment modules

The laboratory has also worked out the competency in preparing and managing projects co-funded by international and national organisations.

Technical University - Sofia

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http://www.tu-sofia.bg
Roumen Trifonov, Ph.D.
E-mail : r_trifonov@tu-sofia.bg
Phone : +359 879 421 608

The Technical University Sofia is the leading Engineeering Studies institution (focusing on electronic sciences and information and communication technologies).

Computer Sciences faculty leads the ranking in the number of students and research projects. University's computer center is an active member of the Bulgarian Research and Education Network (BREN) and will be included in next generation BREN network as a backup center.

The computer center is also an importand early adopter of IPv6 protocol. In 2011, the second Bulgarian IPv6 lab has been established in TU-Sofia with the cooperation of BREN and CISCO. The objective of the lab is to foster the development of IPv6 skills for future migration of the network to new protocol The laboratory is intended for international use by all students following the IPv6 curriculum as developed by the EU projects 6DISS and 6DEPLOY. The team maintaining the lab is also an active participant in the latter project. The lab can be also used to test experimental configurations for conformance and performance with IPv6 protocol.

TU-Sofia has also has an extended research program with the following selected projects:

  • Knowledge Practices Laboratory - an ambitious project focusing on developing a learning system aimed at facilitating innovative practices of sharing, acquiring and working with knowledge in education and the workplace. Learning is seen as shared efforts in developing ideas and social practices, not just individual knowledge acquisition or social interaction (http://www.kp-lab.org)
  • MIcro- Nan OSystems EUROpean NETworking for promoting/pursuing integration of NMS and ACC in ERA” (MINOS-EURONET). The project is devoted to stimulating, encouraging and facilitating the participation of New Member States (NMS) and the Associated Candidate Countries (ACC) in the activities of IST (http://ecad.tu-sofia.bg/minos/)
  • Open Trusted Computing (OpenTC) - an R&D project focusing on the development of trusted and secure computing systems based on open source software. It targets traditional computer platforms as well as mobile & embedded systems. The goal of OpenTC is to reduce system-related threats, errors and malfunctions. (http://www.opentc.net/)

The IPv6 Laboratory is open for cooperation in all research areas requiring understanding and competence in the IPv6 services. TU-Sofia is also actively seeking partners to join distance learning projects in both content and methodology of learning. Staff members of the Computer Science Department are involved in the development of some of the services, specifically perfSONAR, eduPKI, and educonf.

TU-Sofia as typica Eastern European university is located in the country which was a late comer to the internet and therefore already experience the lack of Internet addresses. It is of utmost importance for them to develop IPv6 competence and deploy the protocol as soon as possible if they have ambitious plans to catch with the developed countries in this respect.

Krasimir Simonski – Chair of BREN, Chair of CEENet… and our man in GEANT

photo of Krasimir Simonski

Krassi, as everybody calls him, started his professional IT career with the first American university in Eastern Europe. Almost half of his professional life (between 1991-2003) was devoted to the management of Department of Communications and Computing at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) where he was the director. Working in AUBG, he became the missionary of Internet in Bulgaria and Balcans region. AUBG was one of the first universities in Bulgaria with the Internet access since 1992, while its students enjoy personal email and other Internet services since 1993.

In 1996, Krassi initiated the Council of University Computer Center Directors in Bulgaria with the objective to stimulate the Universities’ leaderships on the networking and ICT projects of national scope. He managed the international relations of the Council, taking active part in EUNIS – the European organization of the university computer center directors, and respectively EDUCAUSE – the American association of the Universities dealing with ICT for education.

He started the first functional Cisco Networking Academy in 2000, and received the Cisco EMEA Award for best project in 2001.

Leaving AUBG in 2003, Krassi moved to manage the largest ICT initiative in Bulgaria – Telecenters Project. Dealing with digital divide in rural areas, the project trained 65.000 administration workers, with 11.000 professional IT certificates issued. 50.000 personnel were educated in in anti-corruption. Under excellent management of Krassi, the project has been nominated for the Stockholm Challenge Award in 2008, and later on it became the IT Project of the Year 2007 in Bulgaria.

Since Fall of 2007 to end of 2009, Krassi chaired the State Agency for ICT in Bulgaria, using his time to develop National Strategy for Broadband Development in Bulgaria, National IT Program and other strategic documents for the country under transition to modern information society. He also represented the country in several High-level groups (on Information Society and on Internet) of the European Commission.

He still loves the university life and delivers presentations and lectures as invited speaker. Passionate lover of the nature, he hikes often in the beautiful mountains of Bulgaria.

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.