KAREN, VLENZ Update 171, June 01, 2010

KAREN goes  ‘independent’

NZ high-speed research/education

network in new partnership …

All NZ education to get real Broadband speeds

A year-old YouTube view of the FX Networks network  …
2200 kms of optical fibre and still counting.

Heralding a new era for online education and research  in New Zealand, Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd (REANNZ) has announced  that it has  entered into a long-term partnership with the country’s foremost, independent optical fibre network provider,   Wellington-based  FX Networks,   to provide the national connectivity for the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN).

The arrangement secures the continuation of KAREN’s existing 10Gb/s backbone connectivity and footprint around the country for an initial term of  three years through to December 2013, with two two-year renewal options.

The move should mean lower cost, and faster and more reliable  national bandwidth options for New Zealand tertiary and secondary education institutions, and could lead to a proliferation of virtual world and other third generation uses of the internet by  both faculty and students in education across the country. When coupled with other moves, it  should also provide benefits to distance learners.

Donald Clark, REANNZ

The Universities of Auckland, Otago and Canterbury, along with Weltech, in Wellington, are already operating a bandwidth-hungry,  OpenSim-based virtual world system (New Zealand Virtual World Grid) in test phase in conjunction with the KAREN network  which can only benefit from the latest development, which should ease both access and costs, especially  as NZVWG only uses local bandwidth, rather than international connections.

The decision to go with FX Networks  follows  what spokespeople for the two partners described as “a thorough and comprehensive evaluation process.”  The KAREN network has previously worked directly with  Telecom.

The contract also includes options to move KAREN to a dark fibre-based network infrastructure, which will be essential to ensure KAREN can continue to offer leading-edge network services within a constrained cost base.

The CEO of REANNZ, Donald Clark,  said, “This is the most exciting development for KAREN since the network was launched in 2006. We are confident that we have selected a progressive, long-term partner in FX Networks and have secured the best national connectivity options for our community and provided certainty to our members on cost and presence.”

“Over the last four years, the demands of our members has driven innovation in network supply and services across the telecommunications industry,” he said. “In earlier times our investments have helped other network suppliers extend their networks, now we’re helping FX Networks.”

Through moving to the new network, REANNZ will put into effect a new Network Access Policy which  will provide greater flexibility to REANNZ and KAREN members around access, and use of the network. The network is currently recruiting a number of secondary  schools to add to its current tertiary institution base.

A virtual region on the Weltech portal of the 'alpha' test NZVWG Grid .... online and MUVE education can only benefit from the latest KAREN move.

Work has already begun on comprehensive transition plan to ensure a smooth cross-over from current national connectivity arrangements to the new arrangements in December.

REANNZ is currently in the  late stage contract discussions with the preferred supplier for KAREN’s international network. An announcement on the selected provider will be made later this month.

FX Networks already has completed most of an optical spine the length of the country and is completing   a network right around the country to join with the spine – a number of  local bodies like those  controlling Hawkes Bay, Pahiatua, Dannevirke and Eketahuna among others   have already signed up with FX Networks –  which should make access to  KAREN  and true high-speed broadband internet an affordable reality for most  institutions as well as distance education students.

Jamie Baddeley, FX Networks

Previously, despite claims to the contrary, the major Telcos in New Zealand  have supplied  provincial New Zealanders  with Broadband, which they pay Broadband prices for, but which  generally  have not delivered consistent Broadband speeds. In fact,  in areas like the Manawatu, consumers, although paying Broadband prices, have often been left with a service, during  times of high contention, which   has run at dial-up speeds.

FX Networks’ fibre optic ‘backbone’ network  covering both islands of New Zealand, however,  is the fastest independent intercity pipeline in the country, capable of transferring data and voice at speeds up to 10Gbps.

The organisation describes its   network as a  ” a ‘green fields’ operation, our 21st Century technology and lean business practices mean we can deliver a Ferrari-type network for Corolla-type pricing.”

The company is privately owned and funded, with 30 percent equity held by New Zealanders. It is independent from the Telcos  operating in New Zealand.

FX Network’s partnership with REANNZ  follows the announcement  in April that FX Networks  had signed an agreement with Telecom Wholesale for the exchange of local internet traffic (local peering) at 19 of  Telecom’s points of interconnection – 39 currently available) around the country,  laying the groundwork for the “most efficient routing” of New Zealand’s growing volumes of Internet traffic through New Zealand’s two main internet backbones.

One of the regions on the University of Auckland portal of NZVWG grid which should benefit from both the KAREN decision and local "peering."

Peering allows traffic to be exchanged on a local or regional basis rather than transported back and forth throughout the country to be exchanged in Auckland.

Announcing this agreement the two companies said, “With the Government’s $1.5bn ‘Ultra Fast Broadband’ and $300m ‘Rural Broadband initiatives both on the horizon, the agreement paves the way for a whole new range of competitive broadband packages to be developed by ISPs and other service providers.”

FX Networks Jamie Baddeley said at the time of the agreement  that it meant  that the Governments investment of $1.8bn in urban and rural broadband “will now be able to run local content in a fast and efficient manner.

“This is a big step in New Zealand’s digital transformation that will revolutionise many aspects of society including health, education, commerce and entertainment,” he said. “…  I think many ISPs are going to have to rethink how they charge for traffic and there will now be competitive pressure to separate international traffic from local usage and charge accordingly.”

Ernie Newman, TUANZ

Senior industry consultant Dr Murray Milner said: “This is a very positive outcome with the industry tackling a major issue that is fundamental to the success of the current fibre roll-outs. Local peering means that internet backbones will not be clogged up with local traffic and we will see smart uses of the capability in areas like healthcare where digital X-rays can be shared simultaneously in full definition.”

Ernie Newman, CEO of TUANZ said: “Peering has been on the table for a number of years as one of those too hard issues, after some carriers depeered from the earlier system a few years ago. It was the users who bore the brunt of that with traffic romboning to Auckland when it didn’t need to, or worse to the USA. I’m delighted to see industry players resolving this issue without the need for regulation or government intervention and users will benefit from better performance and lower charges. What’s emerging is the national digital architecture that TUANZ has been calling for.”

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The SLENZ Update – No 97, June 9, 2009

‘Exciting’ Kiwi development

Major New Zealand universities seek  funding

to establish  national virtual world grid

nzvwgsm

Proposal pdf here

Three major New Zealand universities are planning to establish an open-access, open-source New Zealand National Virtual World grid based on the ONGENS OpenSim grid which is currently under development.

The universities are Otago University, the University of Canterbury, and the University of Auckland. They have been joined by Telecom in the proposed establishment of the grid which will operate on New Zealand-based servers and will leverage other national investments in IT infrastructure. Funding is currently being sought to support this initiative.

Although the NZVWG will be primarily for research and education it will also offer proof-of-concept application deployments and testing. It is being designed to provide both experimental and routine use of VWs in teaching and research; to develop engaging interactive in-world content customised for New Zealand use; and to develop new context-specific plug-ins, enabling interaction between virtual and real (non-virtual) worlds.

The announcement of the planned NZVWG was made by Dr Melanie Middlemiss, manager of the GNI Project, from which the ONGENS testbed originated and which she runs with GNI technical manager Ms Hailing Situ.

The developmental ONGENS Grid, set up in the ONGENS Test Bed Facility developed by Otago University and Canterbury University to explore the possibilities of Virtual Worlds and Web3.D technology, already has nodes run by the University of Auckland, the University of Canterbury and Weltec. It currently is “open” for avatar registration but because it is in the developmental phase is not as stable as some other virtual worlds. It has about 100 registered users.

ONGENSWELCOME_001

ONGENS uses both the Government-funded KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network) system and local networks.

Otago, Canterbury and Auckland Universities along with Telecom have formed a Governance Board for the NZVWG.

The proposed NZVWG will be composed of individual nodes at each University, connected together.

The project has been described as ” exciting” by the University of Auckland’s associate director, IT Services, Scott Diener, who is well known for his championing of virtual world education. The university, which has a two-sim presence in Second Life, is currently is running full test and development servers, hosting 12 islands on the ONGENS grid.

Announcing that further funding was being sought, Dr Middlemiss, said it was hoped to get more New Zealand and Pacific universities involved – the University of Papua New Guinea already has a research site – but it was a matter of finding people who were enthusiastic and dedicated to the development of the NZVWG.

Meanwhile the Government announced as part of the 2009 Budget in May a NZ$16m investment in KAREN to support the organisation’s ongoing operation and transition to a self-funding model.

Welcoming the Government’s new investment “to ensure KAREN keeps operating as New Zealand’s advanced network,” Donald Clark, Chief Executive of REANNZ said, “Such an investment, especially in these difficult economic times, indicates a strong commitment to science and to the investing in the underlying infrastructure of the country.”

NZNVWG

The proposed  New Zealand National Virtual World Grid

The SLENZ Update – No 87, May 20, 2009

AUCKLAND U’s  VIRTUAL MEDICAL CENTRE

Students learn those communication,

teamwork, clinical  skills – virtually

Virtual simulation in an Auckland University, New Zealand, virtual medical centre  training environment is returning similar results to a  real life training facility at a fraction of the cost of a facility of that type, according to Dr Scott Diener PhD (Pictured at right).

Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) (http://scottdiener.edublogs.org), the university’s associate director of IT Services, an enthusiastic proponent of learning in virtual worlds and creator of the University’s Academic and Collaborative Technologies’ Long White Cloud Island sim in Second Life, made this remark in  a YouTube video presentation on the Virtual Medical Centre.

The University of Auckland’s interest in virtual worlds is such that it has also taken up 12 islands on the ONGENS OpenSim Virtual World Grid (on the ONGENS Test Bed Facility), a start-up being run by Otago University and the University of Canterbury on the KAREN network. ONGENS (Otago Next Generation Networks and Services)  is supported by the Global Network Interconnectivity Project which is funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission Growth through an Innovation Pilot Initiative.DienerScott

American-born Diener (right), who is also a blue-water yachtsman, notes that  to set up a similar training facility in real life, using mannequins, would cost something like US2.5 million.
In the SL Medical Centre simulation, however, Diener said, the instructor could set various similar simulations/situations that students teams had to diagnose and treat.

“Readings and charts change when someone becomes a patient,” he said, adding that the students, through working in the simulation, learned teamwork and communication skills alongside the clinical skills.

In the virtual  ward, actors could sit in beds  (as avatars) acting as patients with specific problems, he said. He didn’t mention it  in the video but this means they can be accessed/interviewed/diagnosed by students and interns – and even working doctors needing to upgrade their skills – with access to Broadband internet anywhere but not the time to travel to New Zealand’s two medical schools, one in Auckland and  the other in  Dunedin.

“Participant take a survey to determine if virtual simulation provides comparable results to laboratory settings,” he said, adding, “So far, the virtual simulation is offering comparable results at a fraction of the cost.”