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13 December 2011
TERENA's promotion of end-to-end service provisioning shifts focus to communications and community support
TERENA's Péter Szegedi speaks at the 'Birds of a Feather' meeting at the NORDUnet Conference in June 2011

TERENA’s future activities to promote end-to-end service provisioning will be less about technology and more about the service aspects and getting closer to user communities. This is the outcome of a series of BoF (Birds of a Feather) consultations at major research networking conferences throughout 2011. A new TERENA document on “How to Support the TERENA Community on End-to-End Networking” is now available for download at http://www.terena.org/activities/e2e/e2e-strategy-v1.2.pdf

New challenges are related to multi-domain service development, rather than a technology roadmap. In collaboration with the GN3 (GÉANT) project, Internet2 and GLIF, TERENA will organise in the first half of 2012 a workshop for campus networkers on lightpath services. News on this event will be posted shortly.

Community Consultation

The four 'Birds of a Feather' sessions in 2011 discussed tools and architectures as well as the roles and responsibilities undertaken by various players in the entire end-to-end workflow. The BoFs were held at the GLIF Tech Winter Meeting and APAN Conference in Hong Kong in February, the TERENA Networking Conference in Prague in May, the NORDUnet Conference in Reykjavik in June, and the Internet2 Fall Member Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina in October.

Future Directions

As national research and education networking (NREN) organisations become increasingly service oriented and the dynamic provisioning of end-to-end connections becomes part of their portfolio of production-level services, the promotion of these services and the support of user communities are becoming ever more important. During the discussions in the BoFs it became clear that TERENA's activities to promote end-to-end service provisioning need to give more attention to communications and community support.

In a highly multi-domain, multi-level and global research networking environment, simple questions like ‘who is
 the provider’ or ‘who is the customer’ are not trivial to answer. All involved parties must come together to define and understand the overall service architecture, responsibilities and policies, and to help work out appropriate business models for end-to-end services. This includes customers (not only end-users but also, for example, university IT departments) and providers (not only NRENs but also, for example, research projects), as well as developers of scientific applications, designers, regional, metropolitan and 
campus network operators, policy makers, and so on. It is also essential that commercial companies gradually get involved in these discussions.

This points to the direction of international collaboration in the development and promotion of end-to-end services in the coming years. Work on technical developments and standardisation should continue to be organised in their natural environments, such as NRENs, the OGF (Open Grid Forum) and the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). TERENA's end-to-end service promotion activities must harvest as much information as possible in order to facilitate knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer towards user communities. Those TERENA activities must focus on community support and be coordinated with the network-service provider groups world-wide, such as GÉANT, Internet2 and APAN. Supporting the user community must be based on the active involvement of the NREN staff members who look after the needs of connected institutions and design services. This involvement can be extended to campus networkers, security officers and policy makers.

Both the technical development work and the service promotion should take advantage of the synergies with related activities. Examples are the bandwidth-on-demand service pilot in the GN3 project, GLIF's NSI (Network Services Interface) plugfest, the Partner Services Promotion task in the GN3 project, and the promotion of Internet2's ION (Interoperable On-demand Network) service. Trends in industry, such as 100 Gb/s and larger transmission and NGOA (Next Generation Optical Access) solutions, must be taken into account.

Background

The decision to organise BoF meetings at major events in 2011 was one of the results of a series of annual workshops organised by TERENA in the years 2008-2010. The purpose of the BoFs was to investigate what further support to end-to-end service provisioning TERENA should offer from 2012 onwards, and which kinds of events and useful documentation could be developed. Other conclusions at the end of 2010 were that TERENA's work in this area should be a campus and end-site oriented, demand-driven and flexible coherent set of activities that ensures efficient information sharing and long-term sustainability of community efforts in end-to-end networking.

Achievements in 2008-2010:

  • Three workshops were organised, comprising 44 talks and attracting 162 attendees. Final reports, news items and audiovisual recordings of presentations were published online.
  • A community was built up, including campus network administrators, regional networkers, NREN operators, network architects, service managers and application designers, encompassing 164 individual members from 86 separate organisations.
  • An online survey was carried out and the results were analysed and published (in 2009) to determine the key interests of the community.
  • An End-to-End Expert Group of eight people, composed of representatives of NRENs, the GN3 (GÉANT) project, regional networks, campuses and vendors was set up in 2010 to advise TERENA on the possible directions of its activity in this area.

TERENA got involved with end-to-end service provisioning in 2008 for a specific reason. At that time, the pan-European GÉANT backbone network and most of the NREN networks were able to provide static point-to-point connection services. Because of the underlying optical transport layer these connections are generally called ‘lightpaths’, although in most cases they are not provided in the form of a separate wavelength. For several years, the technical development work of multi-domain dynamic circuit provisioning had been carried out under the auspices of various groups world-wide (GÉANT, Internet2, GLIF, DICE and others), and the technical roadmaps seemed to be converging towards the OGF-NSI protocol and Open Lightpath Exchanges that ensure the worldwide interoperability of dynamic connections and services. The main goals of the workshops that TERENA organised were to facilitate and strengthen the working relationships between these groups and to disseminate their joint knowledge towards campus networkers and other intermediary and end-site network administrators. TERENA’s specific role is now to foster and maintain cooperation between NRENs and metropolitan, campus and local networks (the 'last-mile'), as well as between application developers and designers, and networking communities.