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7 Reasons Why R&E Networks and Universities Are Critical to Future of Broadband

There has been considerable discussion about the future of broadband in terms of infrastructure i.e. fiber, wireless, community owned etc. However, there has been little discussion, to borrow a phrase from Internet 2, on Net+ broadband services. It is in the Net+ services where I think R&E networks can play a critical in helping communities and small commercial ISPs deploy advanced services and applications that will provide new business models to underwrite the costs of next generation broadband.

The next generation broadband I believe will look like architecture of existing R&E networks, rather than the monolithic walled gardens of the telcos/cablecos. Partnering in next generation broadband is also in line with the core missions of R&E networks, schools, libraries and universities in terms of the future of data intensive researcher from thousands of distributed sensors and delivering research and education to any device, any time, anyplace. The fundamental factor driving a new vision of next generation broadband is the fact that Net+ services, such as clouds and content distribution, are localizing traffic (i.e over 90% of Internet traffic will appear to be locally sourced—even though actual sites they may be accessing are 1000s kms away). I believe widespread application of Net+ services will also create a whole new innovation and economic eco-system much in the same way R&E networks enabled the original Internet. See my paper on “Personal Perspective on Future of R&E networks”. A great example of this thinking is the recent announcement of ESPN (the major US sports network) to partner with Internet 2. See also how clouds and Net+ services are enabling an entire new innovation ecosystem and thousands of new startups.

The 7 important areas where R&E networks can play an important role in advancing and support community broadband are as follows:

1. Encouraging universities, colleges, schools and libraries to be anchor institutions in a distributed broadband network architecture. This does NOT mean that R&E networks will provide basic Internet to homes or commercial enterprises, but these anchor institutions and R&E networks can host a number of Net+ services to interconnect to service providers, critical to the community such as distributed content caching, integrated 4G/Wifi nodes and local peering. This will also allow these institutions to deliver their services to the community via any device, anyplace, any time. See: New OTI Whitepaper, “Universities and R&E networks as Hubs for Next-Generation Networks”.

2. Developing Open Content Distribution Networks to integrate Net+ cloud and content services into one seamless service offering. See: “Why R&E Networks Should Be Aware of the CDN Interconnect Initiative (CDNI)”. See also: Google and Akamai developing new caching technology and protocols to speed up Internet over 3G/4G networks.

3. Building enterprise centric integrated WifI/4G networks, versus telco/cableco attempt to make public Wifi become part of walled garden cell phone network. See: Wi-Fi offloading: Who controls your handset? and JANET, AARnet and SURFnet initiatives.

4. Building community IXPs or TXPs, local peering and open collaborative exchanges (OXPs). See: a great presentation at RIPE 64 on the demand for local IXPs being driven by higher access speeds. Also a new SURFnet concept of building open collaborative exchanges using SURFconext to provide seamless access to a variety of content and cloud services.

5. Extending Software Defined Networks to the last mile. See: How Software Defined Networks can solve consumers’ broadband woes. Also note: Reverse Passive Optical Networks (RPON).

6. Deploying zero carbon Green IT networks. There are many companies that are building Wifi/4G technology that is entirely solar or wind powered. See: Green Wifi. Community anchor institutions should not incur additional energy costs in delivering services to the community.

7. Developing Net+ middleware and applications. For example see: Research IT as a Service.

By Bill St. Arnaud , Green IT Networking Consultant

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