Disturb. Dislocate. Disorder. Disrupt?

Contributing author: Bill St. Arnaud

Some argue that the role of Research & Education (R&E) networks should only be as a low-cost Internet service provider to the R&E community.

Others counter that R&E networks should focus on providing services to support e-Science and perhaps even integrate with other e-Infrastructure providers such as High-Performance Computing (HPC) and grid.

And yet still others argue that R&E networks should work closely with industry by providing testbeds to develop and/or improve industry products and enable commercialization of university R&D.

In my opinion R&E networks can play far more important role, first in supporting e-Science, but also in helping industry and creating a knowledge society by being an innovative “disrupter.” This is where R&E networks have been hugely successful in the past:

  • first in the build out of the original Internet,
  • next in deployment of low-cost user-owned fibre networks,
  • and more recently in areas of new architecture for low-carbon Internet networks and global authentication schemes.

These disruptive developments were first intended, in many cases, to support the needs of science, but also had a beneficial effect of creating new network business models and enabling knowledge transformation of society as a whole.

I am pleased to see that we are now on the verge of another disruptive change with respect to R&E networks.

Once again, while these network transformations are first being driven by the needs of eScience the network architectures are starting already to have a beneficial effect on broadband architectures in general. A good example, of course, is the unique facilitation role that Internet2 is playing in the rollout of national broadband through its partnership in UCAN. Other examples include the deployment of community transit exchange points by BCNET and peering points by KAREN in New Zealand.

Do you see R&E networks as disruptive technologies?

Bill Saint ArnaudAbout the author

Bill St. Arnaud, formerly a Chief Research Officer at CANARIE, is a Green IT consultant who works with clients on a variety of subjects such as the next generation Internet and practical solutions to reduce GHG emissions such as free broadband and electrical highways. He currently also works as a consultant at CANARIE.

One Response to Disturb. Dislocate. Disorder. Disrupt?

  1. I’m with you on the “innovative disrupter” moniker, Bill. Let’s face it, unless the NRENs introduce new social (technical) innovations, who will?

    The challenge though, if we want to enable “knowledge transformation of society as a whole”, is getting the most “common services” out of edu institutions & into the main stream. This wouldn’t appear to be particularly hard. E.g. Chris writes “What could the open wireless movement learn from eduroam?”. Hmm. That the people at unis have a freebie roaming account?

    Seems like a nice idea, especially when I have to travel from public library, to the Technical college, to the uni and only get an hour at each, issued by bored librarians handing out slips with username and password.

    You know what I’m suggesting – a lifelong learning account for all citizens; works at every public institution. Would seem like a doddle to get a Minister to buy in and be a hero, especially in the US with the Internet2/UCAN tie up. But the more important thing that it does do, especially to the human firewall, is that it gets them thinking “we”, and not “us” and “them.” i.e. The thin end of the wedge to a range of other social innovations.

    I agree with you that NRENs should be MVNOs. But the important thing, as it appears to me, is to firstly get some common services into other institutions, so we can get past the old “institutional-centric” thinking. You know how disruptive that can be.

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