August 17th, 2016

The theme of this year's Internet2 conference was “Rich History. Bright Future.”

Delivering on that theme in spades, Internet2’s 2016 Global Summit was a celebration of the vibrant history of the industry behind ultra-high speed data transfer for the world’s education and innovation sectors – and a chance for its members to look forward to the future.

In attendance were over 900 of the best and brightest minds from across the global advanced networking community, along with representatives from numerous top US universities.

The conference was an opportunity to contribute to discussions on global trends and challenges affecting both the industry as a whole, and its members – many of which resulted in key learnings for the New Zealand market.

One of the big areas of focus at this year’s event, was The Internet of Things (IoT). With expectations that it will significantly increase network complexity in the coming months and years, the pressure is on for National Research and Education Network (NREN) providers around the world to find better ways to manage the exponential growth it will bring. Among the approaches discussed was the increased leveraging of Software Defined Networks across university campuses.

Within the US, Internet2 has set up a working group to help its membership actively embrace the challenge, through collaboration, to share ideas and recommended frameworks. One of the key successes of this group to date was highlighted in a case study from Marshall University, West Virginia, where the facilities manager partnered with the IT team to introduce smart metering and other technology to build a “smart campus”.

Growth in Trans-National Education was another key area of consideration, whereby universities and research organisations are, more and more frequently, establishing campuses and offices overseas – away from their core network infrastructure. From an NREN perspective, the key issue here comes in ensuring appropriate support is provided to their members’ IT teams. Internet2 has taken the lead on this by developing a “how to guide”, designed to make the set up and transition as seamless as possible, so the user experience is the same as the “home” campus.

Other trends and challenges explored over the course of the three-day conference, included:

  • Next generation networks – with significant data growing across the Internet2 membership (and indeed that of many other NRENs around the world), this was a hot topic - particularly how SDN solutions could be leveraged effectively, to lower cost and improve network flexibility.
  • The continuing trend around movement to the Cloud, and the advent of new Cloud providers – including both software and infrastructure as a service.
  • Challenges around security, and what must be done to meet them – particularly the need for NREN providers to work with members to ensure they can run their networks securely, while minimising the potential impact on network performance.
  • The need for improved reporting on network data – specifically, to enable understanding key network performance metrics, as well as those within the Network Operations Centre (NOC).

Most importantly the conference was an opportunity to see and experience examples of some of the collaborative efforts between NREN providers, and their members - drawing the most out of the network, and enabling some truly innovative projects to be brought to life.

This included Internet2’s “Masterclass” - a database of teaching materials, stored in the cloud, and made easily accessible for staff and students anywhere, anytime - including streamed video content of a music teacher, making music accessible to students in a number of remote locations.

For the NREN community, our responsibility lies in furthering opportunities for collaboration with our members – helping them to achieve their digital strategies, and fostering cooperation within the R&E community itself, where appropriate, to make it more efficient and effective.

For those interested, a number of the sessions were recorded and can be found online.