Testing transnational networked cooperation

Using next generation Internet technologies, MOICANE has created and tested an IP-QoS pilot that offers a virtual lab environment of ’networked collaboratories’, where research institutes, universities, manufacturers and service providers can collaborate, and remotely share applications, knowledge, infrastructure and devices.

Testing the IP-QoS pilot

According to project coordinator Pietro Polese of Alcatel Italia, the IP-QoS pilot “worked very well. The scope of the MOICANE was to demonstrate the viability of the architecture to provide Quality of Service (QoS). With all the different access technologies we were investigating a solution that is applicable to all the cases. We used several fixed and wireless technologies (wireless LAN, Bluetooth) and we carried out accurate tests to check functionality and performances.

“We have been able to connect all the technologies. We performed a number of tests and everything was fine. The only problem was that we could not achieve Quality of Service with the router with our Greek partner – it was not supporting Quality of Service operations, so we ran only functional tests.” However, he adds that this was a relatively minor problem as plenty of positive results were achieved through the tests in the other islands. In the final review, calculations were made with an oscilloscope at the Athens Island using tele-control from Lisbon to access its functions. “We were able to activate the instrument and operate it from Lisbon,” he says.

The network pilot was based on ’Differentiated Services’ islands on Italy, Greece, Portugal and Romania featuring a heterogeneous network, that allows consortium partners access via different technologies: LAN, xDSL, wireless (IEEE 802.11 and Bluetooth) and fibre optic solutions. The various islands supported different services such as tele-lecturing, a virtual classroom and a virtual laboratory. For example the Lisbon Island, operated by consortium member INOV, focused on the wireless IEEE 802.11 and Bluetooth access technology as well as legacy Ethernet technology. The Lisbon Island supported all the MOICANE e-learning and virtual laboratory services and applications including chat, whiteboard, file transfer, video on demand and videoconference applications.

The islands were interconnected nationally by the network operator partners – Wind in Italy, OTE in Greece and RomTelecom in Romania. Internationally, the Géant/Sequine pan-European network and the national research networks united the countries.

Experimenting in a virtual laboratory

The virtual laboratory – one of the many different services supported by the islands – is a distributed problem-solving environment that enables groups of researchers located around the world to work together on a common set of projects. While the tools and techniques are specific to the research domain, the basic infrastructure requirements are shared across disciplines. Thus expensive instruments or infrastructure of a laboratory can be manipulated by remote researchers or within a multidisciplinary project.

As Polese explains, “You can have some instruments – special software or special equipment – located in some laboratory, and this laboratory can be used by others remotely. The advantage of this is that you can share the costs of high expensive equipment in different laboratories. But to do this you must have a reliable network with quality of services. In some cases, such as multimedia, you must have guaranteed quality of service.”

The next steps

“What we would like to do next is to look for more flexibility in the transport network. This quality of service is sufficiently qualified and capable of supporting different traffic situations,” he says. However, he adds that the telecommunication network needs to be upgraded, because as traffic grows exponentially so do complications. He likens the situation to the development of the telephony industry. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were few telephone lines and a manual switchboard system, but today the operations is fully automated.

“Today when you need to set up a link of 2, 34 or 155 megabit [to connect islands], the Network Operators have to agree, and configure the interfaces and the networks and it takes time – days or weeks. Now we want to have this in some minutes,” he says. “We have to develop the equivalent of the automatic switchboard – that is the major challenge in the coming years. That is what is needed in the network, and that is the logical development of the project.”

Although the test pilot is not something suited for commercialisation, several products tested by consortium members during the project have since found their ways onto shelves of network markets. Early in the project, Tekelec Temex, a French consortium member, tested a tool to monitor the network to test packet loss QoS that is now commercially available.

Also early on in the project a DSL concentrator with IP interface developed by Alcatel was tested, replacing the DSL with ATM interface normally used. This is now an Alcatel product offering. “The VoIP Alcatel OmniPCX 4400, a voice-over IP server that provides also teleconferencing was extensively used after September 11 when travelling had to be reduced, to check progress of the work. It proved to be very effective and had also the effect to reduce travelling expenses by around 30 per cent. These communication solutions were not developed with MOICANE project funding however they were used within the project and contributed to its success,” Polese notes.

Contact:
Pietro Polese
Alcatel Italia S.p.a.
Marketing & Business Development
Piazza della Republica 25
I-20100 Milan
Italy
Tel: +39-039-6867010
Fax: +39-039-6869651
Email: pietro.polese@netit.alcatel.it
Source: Based on information from MOICANE

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