We all have accounts with an Internet Service Provider at home. Some of us in the network building business buy IP Transit, participate in Internet Exchanges and perhaps have stepped into the world of cloud computing too! But in the early days of the Internet, it was the Research & Education networks that first brought the Internet to most countries. R&E networks, compared to commercial ISPs of today, are unique and have very different goals.
Today, specialist R&E networks enable collaboration between researchers on projects, provide reliable and high speed communications between students and teachers, and provide a real life testbench for new applications. These networks take a few different forms but exist with a common cause to service Universities, Colleges, Schools and often other facilities such as Libraries and Museums. And, of course, R&E networks provide access to the public Internet for these organisations too.
Regional R&E networks interconnect with each other to facilitate cross country or region collaboration at speeds or scale that would be difficult to guarantee or would prove cost prohibitive over commodity Internet links. Some amazing projects either would have looked very different or simply not have been possible without the R&E networks providing transport.
For some years ESNET in the US has been facilitating movement of data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to researchers in the US and beyond. Data from the LHC has been processed in computing facilities spread over 35 countries. Meanwhile a new project, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is being built across Africa and Australia. It combines many radio telescopes into effectively a single large radio telescope. Institutions from over 20 countries are involved in the project which adds up to a lot of data to shift to a lot of locations and R&E networks such as AARNet on the Australian side will be key providing the connectivity needs.
Researchers love to collaborate! So the importance of R&E networks in keeping up with the needs of these exciting projects is as important as ever. We’re proud to have R&E networks like AARNET participating on our Internet Exchange (IX) where they can connect with many other networks that make up the pieces of the Global Internet.
To find out more about what networks are available on our IX, sign up for an account on our Portal.
Author: Gavin Tweedie
Global Interconnection Director