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9 January 2007
Successful TERENA Server Certificate Service Continues

TERENA and GobalSign have signed a three-year agreement to continue TERENA's successful Server Certificate Service. The contract renewal will allow participating TERENA members to continue to act as service providers for their constituencies and issue an almost unlimited number of SSL certificates per year.

In recent years, research and education networking organisations have witnessed a growing demand for SSL server certificates due, in part, to the growing need for encrypted channels. It is vital to guarantee that a user is connected to the right server and that communication is secure and encrypted. SSL technology makes the communication between client and server more secure, but requires server certificates to work.

In order to deal with this issue, some organisations set up a Certification Authority (CA) and issued certificates to their own user communities. However, when accessing a server with a certificate issued by a CA whose root is not listed as a trusted one by popular browsers, a pop-up message appears saying "the issuer of this certificate is not trusted". Other organisations circumvented this problem by obtaining certificates from a commercial CA provider whose root is recognised, but that is often an expensive solution.

In 2005, a number of TERENA members joined forces to solve these problems. They asked TERENA to contract GlobalSign to run a dedicated Certificate Authority service to issue server certificates to TERENA members and their user communities. This joint solution makes the cost per certificate very low when large numbers of certificates are issued.

By mid 2006, the participating organisations agreed that the service was fulfilling their needs, and asked TERENA to start negotiations with GlobalSign to renew the initial agreement. This also provided an opportunity to make some further improvements to the service. The negotiations successfully concluded in December 2006. The renewal is for a period of three years, offering continuity and greater stability to those participating. It is expected that during the lifetime of the agreement, a number of other TERENA member organisations will join the current eleven participants.

The TERENA members that initially participated in the service were the national members from Austria (ACOnet), Croatia (CARNet), the Czech Republic (CESNET), Denmark (UNI•C), France (RENATER/CRU), the Netherlands (SURFnet), Spain (RedIRIS) and Switzerland (SWITCH). More recently, the national members from Belgium (BELNET), Norway (UNINETT) and the United Kingdom (UKERNA) joined the service.