News 2016

​Empowering network engineers around the world: GÉANT and NSRC renew partnership

14 October 2016 | Cambridge, UK and Eugene, Oregon, USA

In the debate over what makes or breaks a successful NREN, the arguments of a sound business model and strong member engagement rank generally high. However, another key requirement for a sustainable networking organisation is the availability of skilled technical staff able to set up and manage networks efficiently and with confidence. Securing such a pool of engineering expertise may prove challenging for novice NRENs, particularly in emerging regions, and calls for technical training support and sharing of best practice. Providing this very support lies at the heart of the strong relationship between GÉANT and the University of Oregon-based Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) – two of the world’s leading organisations responsible for developing and connecting NRENs around the world.

​In 2013 GÉANT and NSRC signed a partnership agreement to formalise and further develop their longstanding working relationship in support of the many NRENs being set up in emerging regions. Since then, NSRC has run over 180 training events in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East – regions where GÉANT is supporting the development of research and education (R&E) networks. As a result, over 5,000 engineers have benefitted from the capacity building. The recent renewal of the partnership agreement is expected to lead to further expansion of joint GÉANT/NSRC activities.

“We are very excited to continue working with the NSRC team. They are truly global facilitators, not just of technologies, but also of people. Both GÉANT and NSRC are driven by a strong commitment to unlock potential and empower NREN engineers around the world to become the masters of their own networks. I look forward to continuing this inspiring team work in support of research and education in emerging world regions.” Cathrin Stöver, Chief Collaboration Officer, GÉANT

By providing network engineering assistance and hands-on technical training at campus and NREN levels, NSRC complements GÉANT’s expertise in procuring and implementing data-communications networks for the dedicated use by the R&E communities across the world: GÉANT provides the regional network infrastructure working with the regional organisations and NREN partners in each country, NSRC’s primary focus is to train campus and NREN engineers to get the best out of the dedicated network capabilities.

For nearly 25 years Steve Huter and his enthusiastic team at NSRC have helped train local technicians in the developing world to build and maintain well-structured networks, covering topics ranging from network design, routing and switching, installation of network monitoring and management tools, to implementing network security practices and deploying wireless networks. Rather than doing the required network work themselves, the NSRC team strives to give local network engineers the technical know-how, tools and skills so they can do it themselves and then, in turn, reach out and train others in their local communities. In that way, NSRC has successfully contributed to developing a critical mass of savvy network engineers in scores of countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone such a train-the-trainer programme conducted in conjunction with the UbuntuNet Alliance has resulted in empowering over a thousand engineers across the region to become the masters of their own networks.

“Technically skilled people working together all over the world is the heart of how we create, build and maintain the infrastructure of the internet. The operators who take care of their research and education networks cultivate the local expertise to enable continuous progress in their communities. We appreciate the visionary leadership and funding provided by the European Union to develop dedicated regional network infrastructure, which enables people to deliver relevant educational platforms and research output that ultimately enriches the whole internet ecosystem. The NSRC group is honoured to deepen our complementary working relationship with the wonderful team at GÉANT and continue growing the global R&E network fabric.” Steve Huter, Director of NSRC

Under the new partnership agreement, over the next few months Steve and his colleagues will continue their long-standing commitment towards helping local NRENs expand internet access in Africa, working closely with GÉANT, the UbuntuNet Alliance in Eastern & Southern Africa, WACREN in West & Central Africa and ASREN in North Africa to establish and fine-tune training needs in the framework of the AfricaConnect2 project.

In addition to Africa, GÉANT and NSRC are also exploring synergies and further collaboration opportunities with other EU-funded regional networking projects. Under the new agreement, they plan to identify needs and develop joint programmes to support EUMEDCONNECT in the Eastern Mediterranean (in conjunction with ASREN), CAREN in Central Asia, the new Asiaconnect phase of TEIN in Asia-Pacific (in conjunction with TEIN*CC) as well as to further engage in Africa via AfricaConnect2 (in conjunction with the African regional partners).

“Thank you for giving us and our member institutions this valuable opportunity of providing a network engineering assistance programme for LEARN. The NSRC team helped three of our universities fix bottlenecks caused by firewall, internal routing and IPv6 configuration issues. Guidance provided on selecting the right fibre transceivers will save millions of rupees out of future purchasing and sound technical advise received on network monitoring will help us optimise the performance of the internet access.” Kirthi Walgama, CEO, LEARN, Sri Lanka

More inform​ation

The NSRC was established in 1992 to provide technical assistance to organisations setting up computer networks in new areas to connect scientists engaged in collaborative research and education. For nearly 25 years, the NSRC has helped develop Internet infrastructure and network operations communities in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean, and the Middle East. The NSRC is partially funded by the International Research Network Connections (IRNC) program of the U.S. National Science Foundation and Google, with additional contributions from dozens of public and private organisations.

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Banner image courtesy of NSRC.

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