How does NORDUnet stay ahead of the game? The answer to that question is: By collaborating. It’s all about developing through sharing network resources, and thereby achieving greater reach, more flexibility, more powerful connections and lower costs.

- Collaboration is the keyword to almost everything we do, says Jørgen Qvist, NORDUnets Chief Network Operation Officer.

- Sharing network resources enables us to offer better service to our customers at a lower price. Collaboration is part of our DNA. NORDUnet is a regional NREN owned by the five Nordic countries research and education Networks, so we’ve always focused on cross border cooperation, connecting more than 400 research & education institutions with more than 1.2 million users. Sharing gives you so many advantages, both in terms of economy, performance and quality.

Extending network reach

Sharing network resources, as Jørgen Qvist points out, also means extending the reach of your network.

- Ten years ago, none of the European research and education networks operated beyond national borders. Now it’s much more common. We were the first to do it, together with our Dutch partner SURFnet.

- We took our first step beyond Scandinavia eight years ago, establishing a cross border fibre to Hamburg, meeting SURFnet in Hamburg and exchanging traffic there. And we’ve continued from that point on. Lately we’ve done a capacity swap with Polish NREN Pioneer/PSNC to establish a 20G connection from Hamburg to CERN via Frankfurt, and back to Amsterdam using capacity from SURFnet. Also together with SURFnet we’ve established a new optical system from Amsterdam via Brussels to London through the tunnel connection, giving us redundancy between Amsterdam and London.

Alien Waves

NORDUnet’s network planning & engineering manager, Lars Lange Bjørn, adds:

- Along with this we’ve experimented with yet another way of sharing network resources: Alien Waves. Since 2010 we have worked together with Surfnet on the concept of utilising the Alien Wavelenghts as a viable and dependable solution for multi domain optical services. Initial deployment was very much focused on optical engineering and the possibilities that the Wavelength Selective Switch gave us with regards to protection and control of the optical spectrum.

- Later, as we got more confident with the setup, we added operational aspects and coordination, and today we regard Alien Wavelenghts as a fully integrated service in our networks. Lately we have expanded the Alien Wavelength idea to include the entire spectrum and as of September 2015 we have the possibility to exchange the entire spectrum between Surfnet and NORDUnet in a specially designed optical node in Brussels

POP in Geneva

- Furthermore, in August 2015 we opened our first point-of-presence in Central Europe, located at the CERN Internet Exchange Point (CIXP) in Geneva. This gives us access to commercial internet and service providers at CIXP, offering the Nordic community first-class connectivity to global partners. Also, our new presence in Geneva allows us to provide the Nordic Large Haldron Collider (LHC) Tier-1 site hosted by NeIC with fully redundant 20Gbps connectivity to the LHC Tier-0 site at CERN.

And what are the reasons for this stretching of the NORDUnet network?

The answer to this is not only the ambition to offer the best possible services to Nordic internet users in science and education. Naturally, it’s also about money, Jørgen Qvist explains, in this case exploiting peering possibilities:

New peering strategy

- A change in peering strategy has given NORDUnet the financial ability to stretch our network far beyond the Nordic region.

- Initially we got all of our international IP-traffic through paid IP Transit Services. But about 6 years ago we decided to establish our own presence at important internet exchange points like Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt. This enabled us to exchange traffic directly with major internet operators and content providers like Facebook, Amazon and Akamai, and also with many regional and 2nd tier operators, aggregating the majority of internet traffic. The money saved was invested in stretching and strengthening out peering network to even more points of presence, reaching in to the US as well.

Now NORDUnet continues to optimize its peering network and strategy, following the constant fluctuations of internet traffic. As an example, NORDUnet recently has built up presence in the Kista area near Stockholm, due to an increase in traffic coming from content providers like Google, Amazon and Netflix, hosted there.

- We are firm believers in developing through collaboration. In all aspects, from settlement free peering to pioneering Alien Wavelength. I hope, eventually more NRENs will come our way. There are so many good reasons for collaboration, both when you look at it from an economic perspective and from a service perspective. As an equivalent to this, the same approach can be used when operating a European research network. In our opinion, the most efficient way to operate such a network would be to establish open exchange points for the European NRENs to connect to and exchange research traffic.