What Is a NREN?
A NREN is a National Research and Education Network.
A NREN specializes, on a national level, in fulfilling the data communications, networking, application and e-services needs of the host country’s research and education community. NRENs are usually distinguished by their support of a very-high speed network both at the core and access levels with the possibility of offering dedicated channels for individual research projects.
Despite the development and proliferation of commercial networks and internet service providers, NRENs still continue to be launched all over the world. This is due to the fact that the Research and Education communities often have specific needs in terms of high bandwidth, quality of service, security, reliability and availability, that commercial providers can only achieve by means of high investment levels that are not justified by their commercial business models.
NRENs do not compete with commercial service providers nor represent a threat to them; they are rather a new opportunity that creates demand for new services and applications.
What Are the Drivers for NRENs?
The key driver behind the creation of NRENs worldwide is the need to support the demands of advanced research, efficient communication and collaboration.
The following elements constitute some of the drivers for creating NRENs:
- Promotion of the cooperation and collaboration between the academic and research communities’ constituents.
- Better positioning of the country’s academic and research communities in the international scene by connecting the NREN to other worldwide NRENs; and hence better exposure and easier access to the international accumulated research and knowledge base.
- Provision of High Bandwidth (Gbps) connectivity required for particular types of research, such as large scale simulation, image data transfer, large scale and grid computing and
- Joint approach opportunity to deal with the ICT challenges and opportunities brought by the common forum the NREN provides to its constituent members.
- Cost sharing of research equipments, services, and applications as well as expenditure optimization such as shared access to supercomputing facilities, radio-telescopes and others.
- Opportunity of economies of scale as one single network entity procures connectivity services and applications from service providers. This also offloads the administrative and operational burden from individual members to the NREN organization.
What Are the Benefits of NRENs?
National Research and Educational Networks (NRENs) are considered incubators of creativity and sources of innovation of both scientific and technological ideas that often spill over to the society. For example,
the Internet and the World Wide Web are well-known products emerging from NREN academic and research activities. As such, NRENs are often considered strategic assets of economic and social value.
NRENs also play a role in closing the digital divide between academic and research institutions in different geographical areas with different levels of ICT services.
NRENs provide unique opportunities for training skilled people, attracting young scientists which the country needs for stimulating the national research agenda and also attracting researchers from different countries and different disciplines that the nation will benefit from their expertise in achieving excellence in Research and Education.
NRENs also make the participation in international projects possible. Such participation provides access to state-of the-art facilities particularly in some domains where there are development potentials.
NRENs can serve a wide range of scientific and technological research communities. Below are selected worldwide examples that highlight how some fields can benefit from the opportunities made available by NRENs:
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) – a collaboration between 10,000 scientists and engineers from 100 countries – will undertake colliding particles experiments that will produce 15 million Gigabytes of data annually. GEANT2, the pan-European communications network serving Europe’s research and education community, will enable the distribution of this data to processing centers around the world for quick efficient analysis by thousands of scientists.
The European VLBI Network (EVN) is a collaboration of the major radio astronomical institutes in Europe, Asia and South Africa and performs high angular resolution observations of cosmic radio sources.
GÉANT is supporting the work of the EVN through the provision of network resources to allow rapid data transfer. GÉANT and the national research and education networks in participating countries enable significantly faster processing and correlating of radio telescope data. Data can now be transferred almost instantaneously via the national research networks and GÉANT. Therefore, it can be immediately correlated and processed, producing images in near-real time.
Life and Medical Sciences
The Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN) in the USA promotes advances in biomedical and health care research through the development and support of a cyber infrastructure that facilitates data sharing and multi-institutional collaboration. Sponsored by the National Institute of Health, BIRN is creating an environment that encourages biomedical scientists and clinical researchers to make new discoveries by facilitating sharing, analysis, visualization, and data comparisons across laboratories. The growing BIRN consortium currently involves more than forty research groups from more than twenty-five universities and hospitals interconnected by Internet2’s Abilene Network. This network provides the backbone for all distributed data and computational resources within the BIRN.
Information and Communications Technology
One of the most notable network testbed projects using GÉANT2 today is MUPBED (Multi-Partner European Testbeds for Research Networking). Network testbeds, such as those created by the MUPBED project, allow researchers to test new technologies and techniques on a pan-continental scale. MUPBED is a consortium of telecommunications equipment manufacturers, commercial and research network operators, and networking research centers from eight European countries2. MUPBED intends to use large-scale testbeds to test new network technologies such as ASON (Architecture for Automatically Switched Optical Networks) and GMPLS (Generalized MPLS)
High Speed Super Computing
DEISA, the Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications, is a consortium of leading national Supercomputing centers that aims at fostering the pan-European world-leading computational science research. DEISA provides leading scientific researchers with access to a European cluster of state-of-the-art High Performance Computing (HPC) resources. GÉANT2 deploys a “private network” of point-to-point links that enables researchers to gain faster and more efficient access to DEISA’s shared file system, and thus supporting ground-breaking applications in computational sciences.
EUMEDCONNECT2, a regional high-capacity IP-based data-communications network connecting seven (7) countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia) across the Southern Mediterranean, along with GÉANT2, support the Climate Change and Impact Research (CIRCE) Project by providing advanced e-infrastructure tools which enable scientists in the southern Mediterranean countries to engage in world-class climate research and, ultimately, to respond to global challenges, whilst addressing local concerns. Water shortages, poor harvests and relentless desertification expose the acute vulnerability of the Mediterranean to climatic extremes.
The EC-funded CIRCE project aims at conducting a comprehensive and integrated assessment of the region’s climate change, providing recommendations to policy-makers and thus contributing towards sustainable development in the Mediterranean.
What Services Do NRENs Provide?
The following summarizes the range of most services offered by NRENs to the community members
- Dedicated high-speed, reliable and highly available networks:
this is the most fundamental and important service provided by NRENs to its members
- Network services and applications:
- Basic services:
- Web hosting services
- Domain Name services
- Email services
- Network security services
- Bandwidth on Demand
- Bandwidth management (e.g. web caching and traffic shaping) services.
- Network Operating Center (NOC)
- Storage services
- Collocation services
- IP telephony services (VoIP)
- Authentication, Authorization and Accounting (AAA) services
- Video services: Video Conferencing, Video on Demand
- Basic services:
- E-learning services: by leveraging the NRENs platforms and services to stimulate new techniques for teaching and learning (such as videoconferencing for distance learning).
- Integration of and access to digital libraries and archived content.
- Foster advanced research: NRENs provide next-generation based high bandwidth infrastructure to allow the national scientific community to remain at the forefront of the research development.
- Technology transfer: NRENs can enable the transfer of innovations between the research community and the industry to benefit the entire society.
- Consultancy services: NRENs can offer centralized expertise and consulting services, such as advanced security services for intrusion detection and prevention that individual institutions would not be able to solely afford for financial and expertise reasons.
- Promotion of members’ interest: This promotion can be achieved through activities such as the lobbying and awareness campaigns.
- Lower cost of high bandwidth internet access, services and applications: As a demand aggregator, NRENs can leverage the collective buying power to lower the price of bandwidth, applications and services for its community.
NRENs Members and Community
Conventionally, NRENs connected universities and research labs and provided them with the required facilities for advanced education, research and development.
NRENs scope then extended to schools, museums and libraries. Furthermore, NRENs provide connectivity to the Healthcare Sector.
- Research and Development Institutions
- Primary and Secondary Schools
- Telecom Service Providers and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)
It should be noted that Universities and Research Institutions form the main NREN community despite the wide array of member types.
Major Global NREN Clusters
NRENs in geographically close countries often connect in regional NREN clusters for the purpose of further promoting collaboration between their research communities. Below are some of the most prominent worldwide NREN clusters along with some brief highlights.
GÉANT2 is the high-bandwidth, academic Internet network serving Europe’s research and education community. GEANT2 connects over 30 million researchers by joining the NRENs in 34 European countries.
GÉANT2 is at the heart of global research networking and links to other worldwide NREN clusters around the globe on a continental level and these include:
- TEIN3 – Asia-Pacific
- ALICE – Latin America
- EUMEDCONNECT2 – Mediterranean
- SEEREN – Southern and Eastern Europe
GÉANT2 is co-funded by the European Commission and Europe’s national research and education networks and is managed by DANTE.
TEIN3 is the third generation of the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN3). TEIN3 connects the research and educational communities in eleven4 (11) countries across the Asia-Pacific region with a dedicated high-capacity internet network and provides them with direct connectivity to Europe’s GEANT2 cluster.
As such, TEIN3 provides the opportunity for global co-operation and enables over 30 million users across the Asia-Pacific region to access global knowledge base and joint research projects.
The ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) project was established in 2003 to develop the RedCLARA network which provides IP research network infrastructure within the Latin American region and towards Europe. RedCLARA is the first regional Latin American research and educational network interconnecting 12 NRENs across Latin America and offering connectivity to Europe and other regions.
EUMEDCONNECT2 is a regional high-capacity IP-based data-communications network connecting seven (7) countries across the Southern Mediterranean and offering a direct link to GEANT2. It thus provides approximately 2 million users, in approximately 700 institutions across North Africa and the Middle East, with the opportunity to collaborate with their counterparts in more than 3000 research and education establishments in Europe.