AARNet launches five-year plan

The Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) has announced a wide range of initiatives around network upgrades, collaboration, and mobility as part of a new five-year plan.

Detailing the goals, AARNet chief executive, Chris Hancock, said planning for the next five years had been informed by incessant demand for high-volume data transfers, collaboration driven by government initiatives to lift Australia’s competitiveness, and the explosion in mobile device usage on and off campus.

“[The plan] is about realigning ourselves and understanding what we need to spend, what we need to exert our efforts into and what we need to focus on over the next five years,” he said.

“We took a five-year view as we thought that the [National Broadband Network (NBN)] will be well and truly up and running and it is important that it is phased across everything we do.”

Commenting on network speeds, Hancock said a major consideration was in ensuring researchers had sufficient ‘headroom’ for major projects, such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The $2.1 billion SKA radio telescope could generate more data per day than the entire internet when it comes online in 2020.

He said that by 2015, the network would offer its education and research customers a 100gig backbone as part of AARNet 4. The current iteration, AARNet 3, offers 1G and 10G connections between local customers and global collaboration partners.

In addition, AARNet would continue to offer network operations centre (NOC) services for universities #8212; something that has been trialled with the Australian Catholic University and another as-yet unnamed university since late last year.

According to Hancock, “a few” additional universities had indicated their interest in transferring to AARNet’s NOC.

Commenting on increasing collaboration demands, Hancock said the network was currently trialling video conferencing gear with vendors Huawai and Polycom following its July signing of a deal with Cisco for the implementation of its Telepresence Exchange System.

“We are also working on a trial of unified communications (UC) #8212; interoperability between various universities so they will be able to video cal each other no matter what the system,” he said.

“We are providing some SIP trunking to bring that on.”

The ongoing UC trial is currently running with eight universities and research bodies including The Australian National University, Deakin, Monash, Curtin and the CSIRO.

Hancock last year argued that fibre networks were capable of bringing enhanced productivity and collaboration, but interoperability of vendors and standards was required to push uptake of videoconferencing.

“It’s all very well to have a telepresence unit in a board room but if it doesn’t interoperate with the other brand then it is no good,” Hancock said in November.

Commenting on mobility, Hancock said the network’s response to the explosion of tablets and smartphone use in the sector was to accelerate the adoption of the eduroam secure, worldwide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community.

“We are also working in the commercial space to look at providing groups of researchers Wi-Fi data buckets,” he said.

"At the moment, we are working with a few of the telcos ... but we think that by us working with them to get wholesale arrangements to get capacity #8212; 50 megabits for 50 people or however many people in a research group #8212; we can pass that on to them and they can benefit.

"There is an advantage to them through AARNet providing it via the carrier and the network."

Big Data

Commenting further on the five-year plan, Hancock said the growth in large data set transfers was an increasing phenomenon and requirement. Recently one third of a terabyte of data was sent in under ten minutes between the Australian National University and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“We have been [getting] average transfer rates of 5Gbits per second,” he said.

“With things like the Large Hadron Collider, you are going to be seeing these data sets increase in the future.”

While it was hard to predict exact growth in speeds in five years' time, Hancock said that with AARNet 4’s 100gig backbone in place, a "times 10" increase in this speed was not out of reach.

“It will really be a multiplication exercise,” he said.

“We have modelled this on our own traffic: We are growing 50 per cent each year ... our on-net traffic is growing 100 per cent year-on-year.

“We have also introduced off-peak traffic #8212; it is on-net 5pm to 8am #8212; and that has grown 250 per cent year–to-date.

"By seven to eight years from now, we will be at an exabyte of capacity that we will be through-putting on the AARNet network. On a yearly basis [now] we are through-putting about 12 petabytes.”

Hancock also signalled growing demand for its storage-as-a-service offering, CloudStor, which was pushed into general availability for all members of the service provider’s network following a year-long alpha test.

Hancock said the service had roughly 1000 users at present with the largest user storing some 20GB of data in the Cloud.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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