2011 a year of 'network development' for AARNet: CEO

Move to in-house NOC provided real-time traffic information during floods, Yasi

Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) will attempt to expand its international access network in coming years in an attempt to stretch its reach for research projects, according to the service provider's chief executive, Chris Hancock.

The research network currently operates its own points of presence in Singapore, Hawaii, the United States and Fiji with multiple backhaul lines of up to 10 gigabits per second in between them. It also cooperates with other access networks, extending its international reach to New Zealand and all continents apart from South America.

Hancock told Computerworld Australia that under AARNet's new five-year strategic plan, approved by the board in December, the company would look to remove connectivity gaps in its network.

"We're trying to work with blackspot programs as part of that," he said.

As part of expansion plans for the providers network, Hancock said it would look to conduct trials of its internal projects around the world, including repetition of recent trials of the first Australasian e-telescope.

"India is one we’re working with now and in the next few months we'll be developing those sorts of alliances because this is a worldwide technology and its not restricted to one state or one part of Australia," Hancock said.

The e-telescope project, which uses an electronic Very Long Baseline Interferometry (e-VLBI), would ultimately allow multiple telescopes to view the same portion of the sky from different locations, allowing greater coverage area and alignment, according to Hancock.

“A lot of the developments that we are doing now are pushing the boundaries of science, and technology and networking are driving those developments."

However, the success of the e-telescope and other planned projects remained reliant on the speed of AARNet's network in order to provide scientific observations in real time.

“Two years ago, we were doing all of this manually,” he said. “We would do some observing then record the observations on disc and ten send that disk on a plane on the other side of the world.

“Today it’s done in real time and I think the thing about the science community is with high speed networks like AARNet, they are actually providing ultrafast capacity and capability.”

While AARNet has discussed the possibility of beginning a trial of terabit (1000 gigabits per second) services, plans are yet to get underway.

“We’re really just talking about those plans for that,” he said. “We’ll be releasing something on that later in the year.”

When Hancock spoke to Computerworld Australia late last year, he shared AARNet’s plans to move to move its network operations centre (NOC) in-house. This week, Hancock said the number of recent natural disasters had proved the value of making such a move.

“We’re finding that with the Brisbane floods and cyclone Yasi that having that up-to-the-second response on traffic flows allows us to monitor the network on a real time basis,” he said.

“We’ve got our hands on the tiller, so to speak, so we can shape traffic depending on what the needs are.”

Hancock has remained tight-lipped on the details of the strategic plan, which supersedes the previous three-year plan, only revealing AARNet intends on "pushing the boundaries".

“We’re trying to have a look out over the horizon, and what we’re interested in is developing the network as far as we can,” Hancock said.

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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