AARNet pushes videoconferencing standards

Australian Academic Research Network launching terabit speed trial, brings network operations centre in-house

Fibre networks may well bring enhanced productivity and collaboration, but interoperability of vendors and standards is required to push uptake of videoconferencing, Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet) chief executive, Chris Hancock, has warned.

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“It’s all very well to have a telepresence unit in a board room but if it doesn’t interoperate with the other brand then it is no good,” said Hancock, speaking at a media event in Sydney.

“It’s the old story where in an institution you may want to have all Tandberg or all Cisco but researchers are going to have different devices and turn up to work with something else… we need to get to the point where [videoconferencing] just happens.”

According to Hancock, while interoperability may have not been in the commercial interest of videoconferencing vendors in the past, this is no longer the case.

“I think [AARNet] can drive that agenda…as there is nothing that turns people off [videoconferencing] more than when it isn’t backed up,” he said. “They will go and find another way, they will go and do something else, if that can’t happen technically for them.”

Hancock said AARNet was not lobbying vendors to accelerate the use of open standards, however was carrying out technical work with a number of providers.

“We don’t have a lot of money to spend, so we aren’t going to pay them a lot of money to do things that will just reinforce their solidarity of brand ownership. We want to go the other way, and we think society will go the other way.”

“We’re due for a couple of breakthroughs next year on this…and we will put a small amount of CapEx investment into it as well as we believe it is so important."

NOC moves in-house, DOS attacks an issue

Hancock said AARNet had also brought its network operations centre (NOC) in-house in order to provide its own 24/7 networking monitoring, cut costs and improve efficiencies.

“We believe operating with our network expertise that we are able to track traffic flows down to the second or the minute,” he said. “We do that anyway, but were paying for it externally, so we decided it was better to bring it in house then extend the services to those that need it.”

According to Hancock, a number of universities had already approached AARNet to act as their own NOC, resulting in the decision by AARNet to shortly trial NOC services with two universities.

Hancock declined to provide the name of the previous NOC services provider, but confirmed AARNet’s contract had been terminated.

The decision to bring the NOC in-house would also help improve security – an issue for AARNet given regular denial of services (DOS) attacks on the network.

“We have DOS attacks from all parts of the world — China is one which happens for a lot of people,” he said. “This is where our technical guys are very good … it’s really about the measuring patterns and traffic flows on the network. They know when a DOS attack is on, where it is coming from and they know to put a stop to it pretty quickly. We get that stuff happen all the time.”

Hancock said the in-house NOC would also help manage the sizable network traffic growth of 70 per cent in the past year, which is up from 30 to 40 per cent in the 2009 calendar year.

Terabit trial

AARNet would also shortly begin a trial of terabit (1000 gigabits per second) services, according to Hancock.

“We want to trial some big, big capacities, particularly with the astronomy community next year…there will be trials but we believe we can do… more than 1000Gbps,” he said.

AARNet would also put in place two 10Gbps links to Tasmania with networking partner Basslink in the December/January time-frame, Hancock said, to help support Antarctic, ocean and climate research work.

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