ERCIM News No.31 - October 1997

The Future of European Education and Research Networking

by Hans-Peter Axmann and Sabine Payr

Europe is still lacking a truly pervasive high-performance network infra-structure for its scientific and educational community. An outline of current plans and discussions, with a particular glance at the EU 5th Framework Programme for RTD that is currently under preparation is presented here.

The role of research, technical development and training for the creation and preservation of markets and employment in Europe has long been acknowledged, as has been the responsibility of public authorities to create an environment that is favourable to research, education and innovation. Networks for electronic communication have become an indispensable part of this environment. A high-performance European network for research and education is necessary to:

State of European Research and Education Networking

On the national level, some research networks have been developing quickly with public funding. There has been no equivalent development of European interconnectivity, resulting in a heterogeneous European network structure. The most recent attempt to tackle this on a truly European scale is TEN-34 (Trans-European Networking at 34 Mbps), supported under the 4th Framework Programme. However, this project had and still has to struggle with a number of difficulties, such as a too short time-frame, too complex consortium structures and cumbersome administrative overheads. The lesson to be learned is that, while TEN-34 is a valuable first effort, the procedures and regulations of a research project turn out to be unsuitable, notably insofar as:

The next generation of a European research and education network should offer a homogeneous high-speed core network, whose internal structure is invisible to any connecting network, with a topology that optimizes access from all European countries, allowing for flexible access bandwidth and upgrading according to different needs and possibilities, with a view to the progressive integration of all present and future EU member states.

Such a network could be built with a number of Euro-PoPs, exchanges which are able to handle high data volumes, interconnected at 622 Mbps and upgradable to Gbps in the future.

This infrastructure has to provide:

Some Principles

The 5th Framework Programme fully acknowledges the need to support research infrastructure on a European level. In order to translate this intention into the most effective and efficient support for high-performance networking, we suggest that:

These suggestions are based on the views of ENPG (European Group for Policy Coordination of Academic and Industrial Research Networking), TERENA (Trans-European Research and Education Networks Association), DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) and the discussions in the workshops organised by the European Commission.

Please contact:
Hans-Peter Axmann - ENPG
Tel: +43 53120 7070
E-mail: hans-peter.axmann@bmwf.gv.at

Sabine Payr - ENPG Secretariat
Tel: +43 53120 7040
E-mail: sabine.payr@bmwf.gv.at

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