Networked communication and information services play nowadays
an extremely important role in the everyday work and life of all
those being involved in science and academia. This is not a surprising
statement but there is something special about it to point out
by this overview of the Hungarian situation. Namely, it is most
important for the country that for today the mentioned fact did
get a most direct experience of all those great many Hungarian
users of the academic and research network, having 24 hours, 7
days a week access to the different services provided by the infrastructure,
Although the level of networking did reach commensurability to
that of the Western countries just recently, the network and the
services supporting these Hungarian academic and research users
did emerge step by step during the last ten years. The present
level of networking in Hungary is similar to the average level
in the more developed part of Europe, first of all since Hungary
has joined TEN-34, an EU FW4 project of extremely high importance
But the way of reaching the present situation was not very easy.
Below, a brief summary is given about the efforts and results
of the past 10 years, together with a short characterisation of
the present status and a summary of some further plans. It is
emphasised how important is the participation of the Hungarian
academic and research community in EU supported projects.
2. Background and early history
Academic and research networking in Hungary did start in 1986
from the scratch. At that time, no mentionable computer network
was in operation in the country. Only some experimental projects
tried to establish basic forms of data communication through simple
networks connecting some major academic and research sites.
Although the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Committee
for Technological Development did provide considerable financial
and moral support to the Information Infrastructure (IIF) Program,
the starting steps were extremely difficult. However, inspite
of the lack of up to date equipments and software, the level of
expertise within the related community did evolve rapidly. Because
of the COCOM regulations, even the first X.25 packet switch was
developed by rearchers at the Academy, for the first network based
on OSI standards.
Until the late 80's, the main goal was to increase the number
of intelligent PC terminals connected into LANs and to the wide
area X.25 network. Thanks to the activities and capabilities of
a great many domestic fans of the common goals, and to the proper
allocation of the considerable but limited financial resources
(including domestic funding, World Bank loans and EC PHARE support),
during that period of time the infrastructure itself and the supported
services, too, have achieved a technical and organisational level
being commensurate to those of most European countries. All the
important research institutions, together with the major universities
and with the most important public libraries did join the IIF-community,
and got contacted physically to the IIF system (ie to the country-wide
At the end of the year 1990, a network-based information system
was already at the disposal for several thousands of academic
and research-oriented users. The system, itself, has been based,
from that time, on international and de facto standards (X.25,
XXX, UUCP) guaranteeing direct intercommunication with international
academic networks. Among the services provided by the system at
that time, the national e-mail service (with connection to EUNET),
bulletin board services, file transmission services and full-screen
database access are to be mentioned first. More than a hundred
local databases were providing on-line services in the early 90's,
including bibliographical services by the largest libraries.
Early in the 90's, the Ministry of Culture and Education as well
as the Committee of the National Scientific Research Fund did
also join the Program.
In the year 1991, the IIF Program entered it's second phase, spanning
the period 1991 to 1994. Obviously, the most important 1991 event
in the life of the Hungarian academic and research networking
community was the opportunity of joining the Internet. Between
early 1992 and mid-1994 the number of Internet hosts did emerge
from 0 to almost 5000. During this second phase of the program,
the number of users did also increase considerably. By this way,
the information infrastructure has been able to help almost the
entire Hungarian academic and research community in joining international
research projects, improving scientific relations and enhancing
the quality of higher education.
The services at early 1994 did comprise, besides the earlier ones,
message handling, remote job entry, remote interactive processing,
directory services, distribution list services and different kinds
of information services. Until 1995, a complete service portfolio
did evolve, covering also higher level information services, including
gopher and WWW.
A significant amount of large capacity workstations did appear
on the individual research sites. UNIX based regional LAN's have
also been installed, all with an IP router for allowing the application
of Internet technology.
From the year 1995, the IIF Program has been substituted by the
NIIF ("National IIF") Program, continuing the IIF mission
but with additional features and objectives.
3. Results of the recent years (late 1995 - early
The wide area network interconnecting the regional and local user
communities and their service and support centres have based on
a combination of leased lines and a packet switched virtual non-volume-charged
network, exploiting the public service of MATAV, the Hungarian
HBONE, the proprietary managed IP backbone network of the IIF/NIIF
community has been established during 1993 and 1994, and has been
gradually developed later. HBONE, while having turned to be the
major medium of the IIF data traffic, has been providing interfaces
and Internet services for the connecting HBONE nodes, by allowing
full acccess to the widely used Internet service portfolio (smtp,
ftp, telnet, gopher, news, WWW etc.) and supporting international
traffic by direct access to the European IP backbones.
At early 1996, almost 30 HBONE nodes (including those comprising
the Budapest kernel, an Autonomous System, interconnected by a
redundant topology of high speed digital transmission channels
- digital radio links, 100 Mbps FDDI, high speed Ethernet leased
lines - and connecting the domestic traffic to the interfaces
of the international IP beckbones) were already operating. The
HBONE nodes, also serving as regional service providers, have
been equipped with multiprotocol routers interconnected by leased
digital lines. On the HBONE level, dynamic routing is applied.
The local routers, servers and gateways of the regional domestic
user communities (institutions connected to Autonomous Regional
Systems) are connected to the HBONE nodes through their LANs/MANs,
by leased lines. The role of the packet switched public X.25 digital
network (allowing by IP, X.25 or IP over X.25 traffic) did start
to fade out of the connectivity palette after the mid-90's. However,
the average speed of the HBONE links have been just 64 Kbps, much
below the characteristic demand of the related user community.
The international traffic between the Hungarian academic and research
community and their foreign partners has been running through
the Budapest routers of HBONE and their interfaces to the international
backbones (EuropaNET and Ebone). The Amsterdam EuropaNET node
has been accessed, from late 1995, through a 2 Mbps line by HBONE,
while the bandwidth of the connection to the Vienna Ebone EBS
was 256 Kbps.
The number of the Internet hosts did increase continuously and
rapidly. Until early in 1996, this number rised above 17.000,
with an about 100 % annual increase in the previous two years.
At the beginning of 1997 the number of the IP hosts was well above
30.000 and late in 1997 this number is approaching 50.000. About
80 % of them are serving the academic and research community.
The number of users of the services is conservatively estimated
to be more than 200.000.
The international traffic of the Hungarian academic and research
community did also evolve steadily. In early 1996, the average
monthly incoming international traffic mounted to above 150 Gbytes.
The outgoing amount of information is almost steadily about half
of the incoming amount. The volume of the international traffic
is more than quadrupling annually. At the start of 1997, more
than 500 GBytes per month average traffic was measured. The network
did support different kinds of communication services as well
as worldwide information access. The number of domestic WWW servers
did increase rapidly: until early 1997, more than 100 academic
and research institutions did start to operate a total number
of more than 200 WWW servers.
HUNGARNET, the Hungarian Academic and Research Networking Association
(comprising the entire Hungarian academic and research community,
ie those being interested in the NIIF Program) takes special care
of the connections to international networks and networking organisations.
After the early years when the IIF community established international
connections with EARN, Eunet, and HEPNET, a very important step
ahead was that, in 1992, HUNGARNET became a Full National Member
of RARE, the European Research Networking Association and in early
1994 HUNGARNET entered DANTE, the European service provider for
the academic and research community, as well as CEENet, the association
of the Central and Eastern European academic and research Networking
organisation. Since October 1994, HUNGARNET is a member of TERENA
(Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association,
the successor of RARE and EARN, following their merger). HUNGARNET
is also closely cooperating with the Internet Society (an ISOC
Hungary Chapter has been established in 1997).
4. The present: HUNGARNET in TEN-34
Probably the most important step in getting ahead during the last
phase of the NIIF Program was that in 1996 HUNGARNET did join
the TEN-34 (Trans-European Network Interconnection at 34 Mbps)
TEN-34, being an EU supported project in the 4th Framework Programme,
is a joint effort of more than a dozen Western-European national
academic and research network organisations and their telecom
operator partners. The preparations of the project did start early
in 1995, the contract between the European Commission, the participating
partners, and DANTE, as cordinator, has been signed in February
After lenghty discussions and preparations, HUNGARNET has got
entitled to join TEN-34 later in 1996. Thanks to the late 1996
approval of entering the contract, and to the active cooperation
of MATAV, the Hungarian academic and research community (the first
one from the Central and Eastern European region) has been involved
in the early 1997 technical realisation of the 34 Mbps backbone.
Since May 1997, HUNGARNET has a 10 Mbps connection to TEN-34 -
an enormous increase in the speed of international traffic and
in the possibilities of utilising most up-to-date services and
applications requiring high bandwidth interconnections.
Basically, TEN-34 is using ATM technology. Moreover, TEN-34 is
the first European standard for uniform, integrated and managed
ATM and IP over ATM service. On the other hand, a very high level
of QoS (Quality of Service) has been attained by the new backbone
service. Thus, besides the capacity of the network, the technology
is also lending itself to such applications as the different ways
of exploiting, among others, also real-time multi-media technology.
This means that the Hungarian academic and research community,
together with their Western European partners, are able to introduce,
experiment, and utilise all those services and applications being
to be disseminated to the wider public in the forthcoming years.
Moreover, participating in TEN-34 is providing a new element in
the domestic networking arena, as well, by helping and also forcing
the further development of similarly up-to-date, ATM-based infrastructure
and services within the country.
In its present form, the TEN-34 infrastructure is a multi-vendor
supplied network combining ATM virtual paths, a managed IP subnetwork
and traditional leased circuits. The project is constructed by
setting up of two subnetworks. Unisource is operating a managed
IP service between the Unisource home countries (Sweden, Netherlands,
Switzerland, Spain) and also connecting Belgium. Data-transmission
services based on ATM do interconnect France, Germany, Italy,
the UK, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Belgium,
the Czech Republic and Protugal. The two subnetworks are interconnected
at three locations in Europe (Geneva, Frankfurt and London).
TEN-34 is unique in the sense that the partners in the project
- the National Research Networks - have specified the requirements
of the service they want to receive from the telecom operators.
This is in contrast to supplier-led solutions being characteristic
in almost any other cases. 14 telecom operators in 13 countries
contribute by providing the telecommunication infrastructure.
The involvement of the users in the service specification ensures
that Quality of Service and Value for Money have a high priority
in realising TEN-34.
DANTE, as coordinating partner in TEN-34, is addressing the many
technical and organisational issues that arise in this huge, multi-party
project. Management of the TEN-34 network operation is done by
one single network management centre.
Network operation services include, among others, help desk support,
network monitoring and configuration service, and network statistical
analysis. By this way, the current status of the network, network
performance, and fault handling can be dealt with appropriately.
Operation of the TEN-34 infrastructure started in March 1997 and
during the next several months, all elements of the full network
have got into operation, step by step. The links of the production
traffic have entered as they had successfully passed the well
defined ATM and IP tests. Hungary, together with Austria, has
joined in May (HUNGARNET is connected through the Vienna TEN-34
node to the network).
The TEN-34 project represents not just a complex technical task
but also a major financial management activity. There are more
than a dozen suppliers and the annualised cost is around 40 MECU
(reflecting mostly the very high cost of international telecommunications
within Europe). The consortium agreement signed by the participants
provides a stable and flexible commercial framework for the management
of the project, and ensures that costs and benefits are fairly
shared out by the participants.
Most of the TEN-34 network is now up and running. On May 20th
the official launch of the TEN-34 network did take place. At the
launch ceremony, a half-day symposium was organised to address
the accomplishments of TEN-34 as well as the challenges to the
future of European research networking. The symposium was attended
by representatives from the three key parties in European research
networking: the National Research Networks, the Telecom Operators
and the European Commission. There was a common agreement at the
symposium about the necessity of continuity in the provision of
a high-quality pan-European network for R&D. There was also
a recognition of the need to build on the success of TEN-34. It
was agreed that a network such as TEN-34, playing a pivotal role
in the support of co-operative Research and Development, should
be a permanent feature of European Union sponsored research and
Needless to say, the greatly increased bandwidth, the enhanced
connectivity, the new opportunities of introducing sophisticated
new services and applications did open new horizons for the HUNGARNET
But for HUNGARNET, joining TEN-34 was not just a technical, organisational
and financial task. It is, at the same time, a symbol of marching
together with the mainstream of European development in the extremely
important and promising field of telematics. Thus, the results
having been achieved, and the benefits having been gained in connection
with TEN-34 are not just those that are directly exploitable and
enjoyable by the academic and research community but also a milestone
in getting ahead in the European integration process. That's why
HUNGARNET, in the frameworks of the NIIF Program, and with the
support of those high level bodies playing key role in Hungarian
advancement in the preparations for the coming information society,
will try to do their best for keeping in line with the next steps
of European development, especially by taking part at the successor
of TEN-34, as well.
5. Looking ahead
It is well known throughout the academic and research community
that up-to-date information services on the basis of a well working
information (networking) infrastructure are of key importance
in maintaining high quality research as well as education and
effective communication and cooperation with world-wide partner
research institutions, universities and R&D colleagues. Also
the supporting partners in the NIIF Program take special care
of the evolution of the NIIF network and services, and allocate
year-by-year a considerable amount of resources to the Program.
The present and future goals, while maintaining the earlier concepts
of the NIIF Program, are still more ambitious than in the previous
period, by trying to keep pace with the evolution of networking
and information services in the developed world, by involving
an increasing variety of new technologies, by elevating the bandwidths
of the network, by broadening the spectrum of the emerging information
services and by widening the user community.
Piloting such services and applications allowed by the high speed
of TEN-34 traffic and by the novel technologies exploited in TEN-34,
as well as distributing the knowledge about those services and
applications enabled by these high speed and up-to-date technologies
are of key importance not only for the related academic and research
community but also for the whole national economy and society.
Obviously the Hungarian academic and research community is looking
forward to the successor of TEN-34, prospectively aiming at 155
Mbps from mid-1998, the termination date of the TEN-34 project.
Needless to say, the financial requirements of remaning within
the main stream of straightforward European networking developments
are not easy, and, in a longer range, almost impossible to meet
by own funding alone. Since Hungary is not yet an EU member country,
HUNGARNET is not eligible to receive EC support to participate
in TEN-34. That's why HUNGARNET, together with its neighbour countries,
is looking forward to a financing construct being similar to the
extremely successful Phare 1991 and 1994 R&D Networking Projects
of partly EC funding for research networks in the CEESs.
With the perspectives of the information society in the CEE countries
in mind, a well reasoned and detailed proposal for funding of
international network services for the research and education
community, especially in order to involve the CEE region in TEN-34
based Pan-European interconnectivity has been developed earlier
in 1997 and agreed within the frameworks of the EU-CEEC Forum
on the Information Society. The members of Panel 2 (Panel on the
implementation of the Action Plan towards the IS in the CEEC)
have asked the Chair of the Panel to present the proposal to the
Forum at its October 1997 meeting in Brussels. The academic and
research communities in the CEE region - including HUNGARNET -
are looking forward to the results of the Forum, especially with
regard to the funding proposal.
Obviously, the HUNGARNET community is in the hope of mutually
beneficial cooperation among all related European national academic
and research communities. HUNGARNET would like not just to gain
from the TEN-34 issue but also contribute to the development of
academic and research networking in Europe and to the evolution
towards the coming Information Society in the old continent and
It is widely recognised within the related community as well as
among the local supporting bodies in Hungary that the investments
- although, mostly by an indirect way - are returning manifold
not only in the form of the nations' economic, scientific, cultural
and intellectual potential, cooperative abilities, innovative
and competitive readiness, but also in fruitful potential international
relations. No other means can substitute, in their crucial role,
communication through the network and collecting/disseminating
information among the world-wide academic and research community
- and later, the full society all over the world - by utilising
the possibilities provided by the networking infrastructure.
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