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The Quest to Scale 'Above the Net' Services Globally

Nov 18, 2016, by Shelton Waggener
Tags: InCommon, International Community

What do you get when you combine advanced networking and a trust fabric that connects not just US research universities, but a globally connected infrastructure? A community of unparalleled creativity, passion, vision and innovation.

The Internet2 community is proud to be an element in this ecosystem. Just as our networks peer with global partners, and cross-federate the InCommon identity framework through eduGAIN, we are working closely with peers around the world to ensure cloud services can be easily accessed and shared across institutions—both within the US and beyond.

Photo of the Above the Net Workshop attendees Above the Net Workshop
Recently I was joined by Paul Caskey, Internet2 Architect and lead on the InCommon Certificate Service, as we met with 45 technologists from around the world representing more than 25 different national research and education networks (NRENs) for a two-day workshop on how to scale "Above the Net" services globally.

Gathering in Utrecht, The Netherlands, the group convened to address one of the fastest growing uses of Research and Education (R&E) Networks – "above the net" or cloud services. On day one, workshop participants explored questions surrounding architecture, scale, support and sustainability of services, both commercial cloud services as well as community based services, e.g. those built by one institution (or NREN) for use by others. Building on experience gained from the multiple generations of network designs and interconnection efforts, and more than a decade building common identity and trust frameworks, the group considered how to influence and optimize the rapidly expanding landscape of cloud services. Paul presented on the US deployment of the InCommon Certificate Service, a service similar to one first launched in Europe, which is now in use at hundreds of campuses around the US. We also discussed the success attributes of eduroam, a service that has been deployed to over 3000 schools worldwide.

The discussions aligned around a number of known or current challenges and how solutions might be developed to partially mitigate or fully address a wide range of issues including:

  • Growth of global cloud infrastructure providers engaging across multiple NRENs
  • Shift from development of only open-source software to shared sources
  • Differential service features and functions by region
  • Laws, regulations, and policy differences by jurisdiction
  • Incompatible contract terms, conditions, and pricing impacting joint projects
  • Conflicting models related to services use of R&E Networks.

During day two, the participants broke up into teams to brainstorm possible paths to address any of the identified challenges. Proposed actions were subsequently segmented into possible solutions based on People, Process, Tools and Visibility, with the goal of identifying the solutions that might address multiple areas simultaneously (or at least leverage one to minimize another). The participants then evaluated possible approaches to converting those ideas into actionable proposals and completed the session by signing up to assist in the documenting of approaches and to implement proof of concepts between NRENS by working together.

The workshop was a great example of efforts to support and enable Internet2 member campuses beyond national borders by leveraging partnerships with peer institutions worldwide The passion, energy and creativity of the global R&E community was evident throughout the workshop. We look forward to identifying, sharing and implementing solutions that will further help each Internet2 member deploy locally while leveraging the global effort to further streamline the communities access to the best possible services regardless of where they originate.