VOLUME. 8, ISSUE 4: August 2015

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10 added members, 10 Points of Presence, 10 years of existence

The UbuntuNet-Connect 2015 to be held in Maputo, Mozambique on 19-20 November this year is extra special to the UbuntuNet Alliance as it will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Eastern and Southern Africa Research and Education Network.

November 2015 will mark exactly 10 years since the UbuntuNet Alliance was formed at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia in November 2005.

UbuntuNet-Connect 2015 will therefore present the Alliance with an opportunity to celebrate the success it has registered over the ten years it has been operational as well as look into its future plans.

The number 10 however seems to be a dominant digit for Alliance in this decade: Having started with just 5 established and emerging NRENs of MAREN (Malawi), TENET (South Africa), KENET (Kenya), MoRENet (Mozambique) and RwEdNet, the Alliance has, in 10 years, managed to bring on board additional 10 NREN Members, bringing the total NREN membership to 15.
 
Between 2005 and 2015, NRENs from Burundi (BERNET), DRC (Eb@le), Ethiopia (EthERNet), Madagascar (iRENALA), Namibia (Xnet), Somalia (SomaliREN), Sudan (SudREN), Tanzania (TERNET), Uganda (RENU) and Zambia (ZAMREN) have joined and become paid up members of the Alliance.

But of what use would having this significant number of NREN members be if the Alliance would not be meeting its objective of bringing affordable and high-speed Internet connectivity to them?

Thanks to the European Union funded AfricaConnect project, the Alliance has managed to build the regional backbone network and install 8 Points of Presence (POPs) within the UbuntuNet Alliance region bringing the total number of the Alliance’s POPs to 10.

Before the AfricaConnect project, the Alliance had two POPs in London and Amsterdam that were delivering transit to NREN Members from Europe.

On another front, the Alliance has managed to drastically reduce bandwidth costs for NRENs that are connected to the UbuntuNet network while increasing bandwidth capacity with notable NRENs like ZAMREN (Zambia) registering a bandwidth cost decrease from $900 per Mbps per month in 2012 to the current $256 per Mbps per month after getting connected to the UbuntuNet Network with the NREN’s bandwidth increasing from 155Mbps in 2012 to 1Gbps this year.

In Uganda, institutions that are members of the National Research and Education Network (RENU) now pay $180 per Mbps per month down from the $540 per Mbps per month which they were paying before RENU connected to the UbuntuNet backbone in March 2014.

Peeping into the UbuntuNet network 3-year projection plan: From 10 to 17 POPs

The UbuntuNet Alliance has unveiled its 3 year network upgrade plan which aims at expanding connectivity within its membership region by increasing the number of Points of Presence (POPs) from 10 to 17 by the year 2017.

Currently, the Alliance operates 10 POPs with 2 of them delivering global transit in Europe (London and Amsterdam) and 8 POPs located in the UbuntuNet Alliance region, in 7 member countries.

But unveiling UbuntuNet Alliance’s network projection plan during the Price and Costing Workshop held on 4-5 August 2015 in Lilongwe, Malawi, the Alliance’s Technical Manager Joe Kimaili revealed that the Alliance wishes to expand its connectivity within the region by adding 7 More POPs in countries where NRENs are not yet connected to the UbuntuNet network.

The Technical Manager said the within the next three years, the Alliance plans to add POPs in Botswana, Burundi, Madagascar, Malawi, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe to bring the total number of NREN members being covered by the UbuntuNet regional backbone to 14.

The plan, according to the Technical Manager, also aims to upgrade the capacity between Africa and European POPs from the current 2.18Gbs to 5Gbps.

He said the projection plan also aims to upgrade from the current 1Gbps to 2.5Gbps on the Eastern seaboard (Mtunzini to Nairobi), the Nairobi to Dar es Salaam via Kigali via Kampala, and the Dar es Salaam to Cape Town via Lusaka, Harare and Gaborone links.

Within that period, the 155 Mbps Links between Moanda and Cape Town will be upgraded to 622 Mbps which will be the capacity of the link between Lusaka to Blantyre via Harare while two protected links that will connect Kigali to Bujumbura and Mtunzini to Antananarivo will be of 300 Mbps capacity.

UbuntuNet Alliance gears up for AfricaConnect2

UbuntuNet Alliance, one of the coordinators of the soon to be signed European Union funded AfricaConnect2 project, which aims to expand connectivity across the African continent, is already rolling up its sleeves in readiness for the rolling out of the project.

On 4-5 August 2015, the Alliance held a Price and Costing Model Workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi where among other objectives, participants sought to review the current cost and pricing strategy of the Alliance as well as determine how much NREN members will contribute for participation in AfricaConnect2.

Under the project, UbuntuNet Alliance, as a beneficiary is required to contribute 25 percent of the €10m needed for connectivity of Cluster 1:Eastern and Southern Africa cluster, which the Alliance will coordinate.

NREN members contributed €280,000.00 for participation in the initial AfricaConnect project which ran for four years from May 2011 to May 2015, to help the Alliance meet its 20 percentage contribution towards the €14.75m project.  
 
The Cost and Pricing Workshop was attended by UbuntuNet Alliance CEO Dr. Pascal Hoba, his predecessor Eng. Dr. Tusu Tusubira, the Alliance’s Strategic Business Consultant Dr. Duncan Martin, ZAMREN CEO Bonny Khunga, his RENU counterpart Isaac Kasana, the Alliance’s Technical Manager Joe Kimaili, Finance and Administration Manager Tiwonge Banda and Accountant Beatrice Ng’ambi.

During the workshop participants hinted on maintaining low connectivity costs and increased bandwidth for NREN members.

The workshop agreed that a standard amount of contribution which NREN members will be required to pay for participation in the project will be officially revealed at a formal NREN CEO’s meeting.

New CEO for GÉANT

Europe’s research and education collaboration network, GÉANT, has announced that it has appointed New Zealand’s National Research and Education Network (REANNZ) CEO Steve Cotter as its new CEO.

The announcement, which was made on August 17, 2015, follows the restructuring of the operations of the organisation which saw DANTE Ltd and TERENA joining forces to become GÉANT Association on 7 October 2014.

A statement from GÉANT said Steve Cotter, who will assume office in November this year, has been appointed to complete the restructuring of the organisation and take on the challenges of a rapidly changing global science environment.

The statement quotes GÉANT Chairman Pierre Bruyère, who says of Steve’s appointment:

“GÉANTneeded a CEO with a global perspective on research and education networking, coupled with strong leadership and vision, to complete the restructuring process and take us into the next phase. Steve brings an understanding of the NREN environment and substantial experience in change management. He is already very well-known and respected by the GÉANT community and staff, in his capacity as chair of the GÉANT External Advisory Committee, speaker at our annual TNC conference, and participant in the Global R&E Network CEO Forum.”

Formerly Department Head of ESnet, Steve has previously worked for technology companies in Europe and the US including Google, Internet2 and Cisco.

He will take over from Bob Day, Executive Director of JANET (the UK’s NREN) and former Chair of DANTE who took on an interim CEO role to allow the restructuring of GÉANT to proceed whilst a permanent CEO was sought.

GÉANT has 41 member countries and is owned by its core NREN membership, and also has Associate members including commercial organisations and multi-national research infrastructures and projects.

The Board of Trustees, the Chief Executive Officer and the entire UbuntuNet Alliance Community congratulate Steve Cotter on his appointment and wishes him and GÉANT success.

RENU in engineer capacity building workshop

 

At least 25 network engineers from 22 member institutions of the Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) are expected to participate in a one-week wireless networking training workshop expected to take place in the country in September 2015.

The workshop, which will be held from 14 - 18 September 2015 at the Uganda Management Institute has been organised by RENU with support from UbuntuNet Alliance conducts to NREN Members with support from support from UbuntuNet, the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) and INASP and other NREN patners.

The September workshop, which will be followed by a Direct Engineering Assistance (DEA) exercise on 19 to 22 September, will be held under the theme: “Wireless Networking and Network Monitoring.”

Speaking to NUANCE ahead of the workshop, RENU CEO, Isaac Kasana said facilitators of the workshop are expected to come from NSRC, RENU, KENET, and the University of Ghana adding that the skills the participants will acquire will help in improving wireless networking in Uganda.

“This workshop is important as it will raise the quality of wireless skills for member institutions since most institutions have wireless access which is not well planned and implemented. Secondly, the level of network monitoring is still inadequate and is a potential source of security breaches,” says Kasana.

Mr. Kasana informed that RENU is currently setting up a permanent training base at its offices which will accommodate up to 25 trainees and 7 facilitators as part of the network’s plans to sustain the capacity building programme.

“To work towards long term sustainability of the capacity building programme, RENU is equipping a training facility that can host up to 25 trainees and 7 instructors at its new office location. In the second phase of equipping its new location, a data centre will be established to meet members’ content-hosting needs and also cater for RENU-hosted training content.”

The UbuntuNet Alliance capacity building programme started in 2011 and has reached out to 500 engineers so far. Initially, engineers from across the region were being trained at the UbuntuNet-Connect conferences only, but this approach has been expanded to include Training of Trainers who train their peers in their countries.

MAREN healthcare institutions get DfID praise

The Malawi College of Medicine (COM), a constituent college of the University of Malawi which is a member institution of the Malawi Research and Education Network (MAREN), has been hailed as one of the institutions making significant contribution towards Malawi’s healthcare research system which has been described as ‘the best” in Africa.

United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) delegation which toured the country in August 2015 said Malawi’s healthcare researchers “are the best in Africa” judging from the success which the continent’s healthcare system has achieved using research done by the country’s healthcare institutions.

During the tour, the delegation, which was led by Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Chris Whitty, visited some of the country’s key healthcare institutions including the Malawi College of Medicine, the Malawi Liverpool Trust, the Malaria Project, John Hopkins and the Malaria Alert Centre in Blantyre before holding an interface with the media where Whitty expressed his delight at the institutions’ achievements.

Professor Whitty said DfID is impressed with the strides Malawi is making in reducing cases of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and pneumonia in children and the overall contribution it is making towards the healthcare system in Africa.

“Malawi is the best because research that is done here is very strong and is used not only in Malawi but the whole of Africa. It is also important to remember that child deaths and deaths from HIV have fallen very fast in the last 15 years and that is among other things, based on excellent research done in Malawi,” said Whitty.  

In response, the College of Medicine hailed DfID for sustained funding towards healthcare research projects in the country.
Since 2012, the DfID has been funding six research projects at Malawi Liverpool Trust to the tune of 1.2 Million Pounds.

ASREN in eduroam and Identity Federation workshop and OSSCOM 2015

September 2015 promises to be an important month for the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN). Firstly, the network is expected to hold a three day workshop on joining eduroam and Identity federation scheduled to be held at the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh University (TAGI-UNI) in Jordan from 8- 10 September,  2015. 

According to ASREN, the workshop, being organized in cooperation with the German Jordanian University, MAGIC Project and EUMEDCONENCT3, will be held in conjunction with the 1st International Conference on Open Source Software Computing (OSSCOM 2015) to be held at the German Jordanian University on 10-13 September, 2015.

Information on the ASREN website says the eduroam and Identity federation workshop aims to drill participants who will be provided with a working RADIUS and a Shibboleth server, to enable them technically connect NRENs and institutions to the eduroam infrastructure as well as connect institutional identity provider to the national identity federation as well as to eduGAIN.

Registration for attendance to the workshop, which is targeting heads of IT from NRENs, heads of IT departments from institutions and IT administrators, is already underway and the registration fee is 100 Euro for ASREN members and 200 Euro for non members.

As this workshop will be finishing on 10 September 2015, the 1st International Conference on Open Source Software Computing (OSSCOM 2015) is expected to start on the same day and expected to wind up on 13 September 2015.

OSSCOM is an international project that aims to setup linkage between academic institutions and enterprises to support transformative technical education and rejuvenation, build Open-Source Software (OSS) hubs and communities, enhance technology access to societies at large, and boost economic development.

It enables the achievement of these objectives by establishing technology centers to provide coordinated support and resources for developing and enabling an environment for large-scale OSS technology outreach and its use in academic institutions and enterprises.

Call for Articles

NUANCE is the monthly e-newsletter published by UbuntuNet Alliance. Key content  is news from, about, or of interest to National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. We request and invite you to submit an item before the 20th of each month capturing:
  • News and developments from your NREN and news items of interest to NRENs
  • Content networks: how researchers and academics are using the REN infrastructure to enhance effectiveness and efficiency their work and to promote national and international collaboration
  • Hot tips about something you have done successfully (organisational or technical)
  • A photo that tells a story
  • Looking into the future, especially with regards to fibre infrastructure

Submissions should be sent to info@ubuntunet.net