Next decade of e-infrastructure secured for UK research and education

UK researchers’ and educators’ demands for high performance computing are now secured until at least 2022, thanks to an initial £30m e-infrastructure investment from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the higher and further education funding councils.

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, says: “E-infrastructure, including high performance computing, is absolutely essential to our research base, whether it’s enabling scientists to carry out complex experiments or helping academics manage large amounts of data. This significant Government funding will be a real boost to our universities, colleges and schools and is part of a wider package of investment to ensure Britain’s e-infrastructure is truly world-class.”

The investment will build Janet6 the next generation of the UK’s national research and education network, adding value across the sector from high-end research to universities, colleges and schools. It will also enable research to stay competitive on both a national and international level, and support the £60bn contribution that higher education brings to the UK economy.

Tim Marshall, CEO of Janet, says: “We are delighted to be able to continue to deliver this fundamental platform for research and education. The move to a long-term fibre contract ensures that for the next decade we can provide maximum agility and scalability to meet customer demands, that will inevitably be unpredictable, as research and innovation takes place. The new operating model that we are embracing for Janet6 will allow us to do so very cost-effectively in these challenging times.”

Research shows that as institutions use innovative methods to deliver digital resources to their students, so their use of different devices over the network grows. The pattern of data across Janet shows that data usage doubles every 18 months and this is unlikely to change.

However, in addition to this normal usage increase, there will also be a ‘data deluge’ from data intensive research, which means that future network demands are set to increase. The high capacity network means that research in biomedical sciences, climate science and genomics can continue at current rates, even with the need for the transfer of large data sets, as well as high performance computing, that are needed for research and analysis in these subject areas.

Martyn Harrow, JISC Executive Secretary, explains, “JISC first started funding the Janet network in 1984 with 60 universities and the UK Research Councils. It now has over 18 million users across the UK and underpins the digital resources and activities across education and research. As an ex-director of information services and libraries I know how much colleges and universities depend on a robust and reliable network. Janet6 will provide network capacity from a starting point of two terabits per second and increasing over the next five years up to a staggering eight terabits per second or even more – placing the UK in an unrivalled position.”

A seamless transition to the new network, and a proactive approach to network provision where it’s needed, means that most customers should not see any disruption in service. The new network will continue to provide unseen yet essential support to the work of researchers and educators, enabling them to communicate easily and share large data sets across international boundaries.

The provider SSE Telecoms has been awarded the contract to provide the fibre for the Janet infrastructure in the largest UK deployment of its kind, this year. The Janet6 infrastructure will be based on Ciena’s platform, which will enable the network to easily scale from 100G to 400G and beyond as requirements change over time.  Janet6 will be fully operational by October 2013.

Sir Alan LanglandsHEFCE chief executive, added: “Janet is a national asset of which the UK can be proud. As a vital part of our research infrastructure, the next version of the network will further improve links and collaboration between universities, strategic research organisations and others. It will not only add value to UK education and research organisations, but will underpin the contribution they make to the UK economy.”

Brian Gilmore, director of IT Infrastructure at The University of Edinburgh and a member of the Janet board, commented: “From experiences in my own university, and from colleagues across all parts of the education and research sector, I know that the provision of a network infrastructure which provides continuous reliability and has the capacity to cope with an ever increasing range of uses and amounts of data transfer is essential. Without it we cannot deliver all that the economy and our students require of us. It is vital that Janet continues to make sure that the most capable suppliers are providing the quality of service that research and education need.”

Janet6 has been developed in the context of the Government’s Public Services Network (PSN) programme, and as Janet6 unfolds, the Janet team will continue to work closely with the PSN programme to ensure maximum efficiency in public-sector ICT spend.

The Janet6 programme is aligned with, and co-funded by, the BIS e-infrastructure initiativeBIS investment in both the core Janet network and in extending Janet means that it can better serve additional data intensive research disciplines.