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13 June 2006
TERENA Celebrates Its 20th Birthday

Today TERENA, the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association, celebrates its 20th birthday. Set up 20 years ago to the day, the association started its life as RARE (Réseaux Associés pour la Recherche Européenne). RARE was established under Dutch law on 13 June 1986 by Hans Rosenberg on behalf of the University of Utrecht and Klaus Ullmann on behalf of the DFN Association. RARE changed its name to TERENA in 1994 when it merged with another organisation, EARN, the European Academic & Research Network association.

Karel Vietsch, TERENA’s Secretary General said: “The last 20 years have been incredibly eventful with periods of rapid progress and enormous technical innovation. There have been times of wide consensus but also wars over protocols and policies. Overall though, the last 20 years have been a series of great successes in the European networking arena.”

International collaboration in research networking began in 1982 when Peter Kirstein (University College London) convened a meeting to discuss US-European academic network collaboration. The next meeting in Oslo in September 1983, organised by Peter Kirstein and Larry Landweber (University of Wisconsin), has been described as the first meeting in history to take a global view of research networking.

Towards the end of 1983, IBM took the initiative for a network linking selected computer centres via leased lines, which later became known as EARN. The EARN association was established as a legal entity in February of 1985. In May of that year, the first-ever European workshop on research networking was held in the European Commission buildings in Luxembourg and there, at an informal meeting of representatives of 12 countries, it was proposed to form a European association to foster research networking: RARE is born.

On 13 June 1986, RARE was established as an association under Dutch law. EARN became an international member of RARE and by the end of 1987, the RARE membership counted national members from 18 of the 20 eligible European countries.

The early years of RARE were very much dominated by the COSINE project (1985-1993). COSINE (Cooperation for Open Systems Interconnection in Europe) was a very large scale project, funded jointly by the governments of 18 West-European countries and the European Commission. The objectives of COSINE were to promote data communication networks for research, and to base the networks and services on the OSI standards, thereby giving a lead to Europe in the industrial competition with the United States and Japan. COSINE resulted in a large number of useful services, including the first generations of the European backbone interconnecting the national research networks. However, OSI was not going to be a winner in the protocol wars, because of insufficient take-up by industry and the more lightweight approach of the competing TCP/IP standards. By the early 1990s, the RARE membership agreed to allow other protocols in addition to OSI, and in the end Internet protocols would become the dominating standards.

In mid-December 1991 the RARE Secretariat moved to the present location at Singel 468. RARE was the hosting organisation for the RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre) from the start of its operations in April 1992 until January 1998, when the RIPE NCC was split off from RARE and set up as an independent legal entity.

Another spin-off of RARE has been DANTE, the not-for profit company managing the backbone interconnecting the national research networks in Europe. Originally  envisaged by RARE as the Operational Unit of national research networks, DANTE was set up as an independent company in Cambridge, England in 1993.

On 20 October 1994, RARE and EARN merged to become TERENA (Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association). All members of RARE and EARN decided to become members of TERENA.

Earlier, the first EARN/RARE Joint European Networking Conference (JENC) was held in Killarney, Ireland in 1990, succeeding the RARE Networkshops (Luxembourg in 1985, Copenhagen in 1986, Valencia in 1987,  Les Diablerets in 1988 and Trieste in 1989) and the EARN conferences (Berlin in 1986, Izmir in 1988 and Heraklion in 1989).

In 1998, TERENA organised the first TERENA Networking Conference, in Dresden, Germany and at TNC2004 in Rhodes, 20 years of European networking conferences was celebrated, counting back to the RARE Networkshop in Luxembourg.

Today TERENA has 34 national members, 2 international members and 10 associate members. There are currently seven busy and active Task Forces, working in the areas of mobility, middleware, next-generation networks, voice/video and collaboration, public relations, product management and computer security incident response. In addition, TERENA organises and increasing number of workshops and tutorials and leads or participates in many projects funded by the European Union.

 A founding member of the Internet Society, TERENA continues to collaborate actively with its sister organisations in other continents (Internet2, CANARIE, APAN, CLARA). TERENA provides the secretariat for GLIF, the Global Lambda Integrated Facility.

TERENA’s 20th birthday was celebrated by the Secretariat staff today and will be marked by a special anniversary event later in the month.