Research network backbone complete

17 December 2009

The backbone for the South African National Research Network (SANReN), a network which aims to eventually connect all of the country’s higher education and research institutions, has been completed ahead of schedule.

The national backbone now interconnects the metropolitan areas of Tshwane (Pretoria), Johannesburg, Mangaung (Bloemfontein), Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) and eThekwini (Durban) on a 10 gigabits-per-second fibre-optic ring network.

The Tertiary Education Network has acquired international bandwidth from Seacom, which can now be distributed via the SANReN national backbone network. Seacom is a 1.28 terabyte-per-second, 17 000 km-long submarine fibre-optic cable system linking southern and East Africa to global networks via India and Europe.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) contracted Telkom for the installation of the national backbone network in July 2009, and the first phase of the research network will see the country’s top 50 education and research institutions connected.

The CSIR’s Meraka Institute is responsible for the implementation of the Department of Science and Technology’s cyber-infrastructure initiative which, in addition to SANReN, comprises the Centre for High Performance Computing and the proposed Very Large Datasets data-storage initiative.

Important milestone

According to Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, the completion of the national backbone network is an important milestone, as it will greatly reduce the cost of bandwidth for all research and higher education institutions in the country.

“For the first time, South African researchers will have world-class networking enabling them to collaborate nationally and with their international peers. This positions South Africa internationally as a player in global science efforts,” she said in a statement earlier this month.

“It also makes it possible to harness South Africa’s full research and development capacity to address national priority issues, including health, food security and understanding and mitigating the effect of climate change.”

According to Pandor, bandwidth abundance resulting from the networking of universities will shape the growth and development of a new generation of students, whose knowledge and skills will contribute to the goal of creating an inclusive information society, enabling socio-economic benefits through information and communications technology and broadband specifically.

Reciprocal participation

Science and Technology department director-general Phil Mjwara said the broadband connectivity provided by the research network would allow for reciprocal participation between South Africa and international research institutions.

It would give the global research community access to facilities such as the Southern African Large Telescope and the Karoo Array Telescope, and allow South Africa to participate in international projects with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, among others, he said.

“This milestone will further demonstrate South Africa’s readiness to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, for which the country is currently bidding.”

SAinfo reporter

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