INSIGHT: Enabling NZ research and innovation to flourish

REANNZ CEO Steve Cotter believes that only with borderless technology can science, education and innovation truly flourish in New Zealand.

National research and education networks (NRENs) are a group of highly specialised Internet service providers, operating from every corner of the world.

At their core, these networks exist to enable efficient, reliable data communications and networking services for their nation’s research and education communities.

Many of the world’s NRENs, of which there are over 125, have also connected to form an international research and education network, allowing global collaboration.

REANNZ is New Zealand’s own NREN, driving this unique service for Kiwi researchers and innovators.

Our mission at REANNZ is to provide outstanding network services, infrastructure and tools that enable collaboration and accelerate education, science and innovation.

Put more simply, we accelerate the transformation of data into knowledge, using our globally innovative platform, which connects Kiwi researchers and educators to one another, and the world.

Our members include New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes, wānanga, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, and other entities in the research and education community.

At REANNZ we work, day in and day out, to provide leading edge services for our country’s top researchers, who often need access to technology that cannot be provided by commercial networks.

At the heart of REANNZ is our advanced network, which connects members of our community to one another as well as to their international peers, via high-capacity, high-quality broadband, designed to meet the exacting requirements of 21st century science, education and innovation.

We also provide tools that facilitate collaboration between institutions, specialised services that enhance our members’ ability to use our network, and products and services that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our members’ businesses.

Some of our newest services and upgrades include Software Defined Networking (SDN), a forty-fold increase in international bandwidth capacity to Australia, the United States and beyond and deployment of eduroam throughout the country, providing free roaming Internet for university staff and students.

In understanding REANNZ’s role in New Zealand, it helps to understand the fundamental differences between a research and education network and a commercial Internet service provider (ISP).

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The below summary of the key differences, comes courtesy of our colleagues at Internet2 in the United States:

• NRENs serve scholarly purposes; ISPs serve commercial purposes

• The environment for NRENs is collegial; for ISPs it is proprietary

• NRENs are collaborative; ISPs are competitive

NRENs are continuously evolving, but doing so according to the demands and values of the academic communities we serve, rather than those of the marketplace.

Research networks like REANNZ operate in a space of exploration.  We experiment with new technologies and push the capabilities of existing technologies in order to meet the needs of a very specific user group - our researchers.

This involves collaboration with organisations like Google and our international NREN colleagues on projects such as Google Loon, GLIF, perfSONAR, Square Kilometer Array and the Large Hadron Collider, which was built to discover the Higgs Boson (the ‘God particle’ that gives matter mass).

In all of these projects, research and education networks are at the heart of the discovery. Some of the most notable of which are the World Wide Web and advancements in magnetic resonance imaging that is common practice in medicine today.

In order to be successful and continue to offer services that are relevant to our community, we must continue to evolve and redefine ourselves at a much faster pace than ISPs.

Our ultimate purpose is to serve scholars and innovators, ensuring that Kiwi research and development is contributing to the local and global economy.

In order to achieve this, we work in a collaborative, open-source way ensuring the network services we offer here in New Zealand are compatible with NRENs around the world, from Australia and the United States, through to Europe, Africa and Asia.

Our services are borderless, just as research and knowledge are borderless. And only with borderless technology can science, education and innovation truly flourish in New Zealand.

By Steve Cotter, CEO, REANNZ