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30 January 2012
Workshop provides feedback on plans to create NREN in Albania
Intensive discussions at the workshop (photo Martin Bech)

On 27 January 2012, research networking experts from across Europe assembled in a small workshop in Rome to provide feedback on plans to create a National Research and Education Network (NREN) in Albania. The event was organised jointly by CASPUR (the Italian Inter-University Consortium for the Application of Supercomputing for Universities and Research) and TERENA's Networking Development Support activity, which receives EU funding through the GN3 (GÉANT) project.

On the basis of an agreement with the Albanian government, the Italian government has made funds available for the creation of the Academic Network of Albania (ANA). In 2010, a call for tenders was organised for the first phase of the project, which includes the design of the network infrastructure, the provision of common services to universities, support to universities for the Bologna process, and training of ANA and university staff. The contract was awarded to the Italian university consortia CINECA and CASPUR, with CASPUR being responsible for the network infrastructure design. As this phase of the work is about to be completed, the workshop in Rome was organised to receive feedback from experts, in order to detail the plans for actually building the national network and associated services.

Ambitious plans

After an introduction by TERENA's Valentino Cavalli, ANA's director Arjan Xhelaj and network expert Petrit Hasani, together with CASPUR's Daniele Arena and Gabriele Barbagallo sketched the current situation in Albania and the plans for the ANA network. At the moment there is no national network in Albania, and each faculty or department of each university has its own connection to the Internet. The ANA network is to connect all eleven public universities in the country. The plan is to achieve this before the end of 2012, and if possible by the start of the 2012-2013 academic year. Five universities, three research centres and the Ministry of Education are located in Tirana, and there are good opportunities to create an optical Metropolitan Area Network there. Establishing connections to the six public universities in other parts of the country is much more challenging, while also international connectivity is expensive and difficult to obtain.

Network, services, governance and sustainability

The international experts at the workshop included Martin Bech (UNI•C, Denmark), Gunnar Bøe (UNINETT, Norway), Massimo Carboni (GARR, Italy), Mike Norris (HEAnet, Ireland), Christian Panigl (ACOnet, Austria) and Karel Vietsch (TERENA Secretariat). In three workshop sessions they discussed the ANA plans, focusing on the network (including the creation of the Network Operation Centre and setting up an Internet Exchange), services (including voice-over-IP and eduroam®), and governance and sustainability, respectively. They were able to make many detailed suggestions. The experts expressed their appreciation for the quality of the ANA plans, the ambitious goals and the strategic vision.