Here are the 4 keys to running a successful research and education network

Research and education networks are more than information superhighways. They are generators of beneficial innovation connecting the research community worldwide.
Rahul Aggarwal
Rahul Aggarwal
Rahul Aggarwal is the head of global enterprise and partner marketing at Nokia, where he enables large enterprises to unlock the full potential of digital transformation.

Joining a research and education network (REN) is a worthwhile investment for any college or university with a research program. They act as high-powered internet service providers connecting laboratories, research sites and academic institutions. Additionally, they provide colleges and universities with opportunities to collaborate on joint research efforts and government-funded scientific initiatives while supporting advanced learning for their most gifted students.

But RENs are more than just superhighways for sharing research information. They are also themselves generators of beneficial innovation, strengthening the bonds connecting the research community worldwide. The U.S. Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), which connects labs and academic institutions throughout the United States, has received several awards as a Top Government IT Innovator.

While becoming a member of REN is worthwhile, it’s essential to know the unique requirements of RENs and the kind of collaboration necessary to support vast numbers of demanding users sending massive amounts of data around the world continuously—and to do it reliably, consistently and securely. A robust, reliable communications network is essential to power this kind of network.

REN communities thrive on collaboration, and the collaboration between specialized channel partners and communications technology providers makes RENs thrive with peak performance.

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The unique requirements of RENs

It’s not easy to meet the communications network requirements of RENs. In addition to bandwidth and quality of service (QoS), their operations demand the highest security, reliability and availability standards, and they are often partially funded by or affiliated with large government organizations, RENs 

To ensure data integrity and support the needs of various government organizations for which much REN research is conducted, RENs require robust security measures. They must be built and managed to resist the enormous cyberattacks carried out by botnets in the present and the possible attacks that could arise in the future, such as those from quantum computers that could break the existing encryption methods and algorithms. 

One of the challenges of REN research is the huge amount of data that has to be transferred between different institutions. These massive data transfers can take hours to complete, and any network or link failure would mean retransmission of the data sets, which would delay vital research projects. This is why RENs need rapid restoration and redundancy to ensure high network reliability and availability of services.

A collaboration working to satisfy growing demand

A recent upgrade project at a European regional REN known as GÉANT illustrates how the teamwork of communications technology providers and their channel partners keeps RENs at the forefront of innovation. For reference, GÉANT connects 40 national RENs across 27 European countries, establishing links for 50 million users and institutions with over 100 additional RENs worldwide. The network efficiently handles a daily data load exceeding 7 petabytes. 

Over the past five years, REN networks across the globe have experienced 30% traffic growth each year, driven by the proliferation of network-connected instruments and the growing output of supercomputers.

The leaders of GÉANT determined it was time to upgrade the capabilities of their massive IP backbone network and are seeking to triple their capacity and supercharge their 50,000 km network. Finding the right partners was vital to ensuring the success of the project.

Choosing the right partners

Working with partners that possess experience not found in-house is essential for any major network upgrade because they combine technical expertise with customer knowledge. In this case, the partner was well-known, having earned the trust of the REN by managing their existing network for many years. The channel partner also specializes in network migration, and they chose to work with a B2B technology innovation leader with a long and successful track record working with other RENs

Over the next 10 years, the channel and technology partners will completely replace and upgrade GÉANT’s routing and switching infrastructure, as well as provide comprehensive support and maintenance services.

Collaboration makes RENs run

Joining a REN is a significant decision for any college or university. Part of that decision-making process should involve evaluating the prospective REN’s networking resources, QoS capabilities, security measures and more.

By working with a channel partner and a B2B technology innovation leader, RENs can transform their networks, ensuring that their interconnected communities will keep research, innovation, science, knowledge-sharing and education rushing into the future.


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