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
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.
Last three months were very busy for WP4 team. Our experts supported our NREN partners in the development of the following project proposals:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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
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:
Bulgarian Supercomputer Center is interested in using the following GEANT services: eduGAIN, eduPERT, perfSONAR, eduPKI, MD BoD
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:
The laboratory has also worked out the competency in preparing and managing projects co-funded by international and national organisations.
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:
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.
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.