1 April 1984 saw the launch of the Janet network, connecting 60 universities and research councils and giving them access to a high speed internet connection (9.6Kb/s).
Exactly 30 years later, on 1 April 2014, we kicked off our Networkshop42 conference exploring national and international collaborations and the sheer range of research activities that the latest version of the network is helping to support.
As always, there was a real buzz to the conference, and it was great to see so many of our customers, keeping up to date with developments and networking. From talking to people I met it’s clear that the social aspects of the event are just as important as the technical ones – many say they’ve made valuable contacts for the future and also that they enjoyed catching up with those they’ve not seen for a while. I’m excited to see what comes from various plans I’ve heard about, for collaborations and information on projects such as telephony and wireless implementations in the coming months.
The talks themselves were as wide-ranging as ever. I’d be interested to hear what stood out for you – here’s a few of the messages that stood out for me:
Accurate weather prediction and climate modelling require hugely powerful, fast network capabilities
I’m sure I’m not alone in being amazed by a talk by Alan Gadian from event host the University of Leeds . The amount of data that has to be analysed to predict the weather is staggering, and even this only allows forecasters to predict the weather two weeks ahead. To predict further ahead more accurately and to model climate change effectively, researchers are going to require a vast data transfer capability, and masses of storage capacity.
Positive news about your digital profile
We’ve heard a lot about how posting incautiously on Facebook or Instagram can be a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot when it comes to finding a job. Bernadette John from King’s College London took a more positive approach and described how using social media the right way can pay dividends.
Those who missed her talk can visit her blog, where she offers lots of practical tips on building a professional online profile, and also shows how we can use social media platforms to identify and network with collaborators and keep up with current opinion on the subjects we’re interested in.
The rapid growth of transnational education means institutions need to think again about IT provision
Newcastle University’s international campus in Educity, Malaysia is a hugely exciting project - Jason Bain from Newcastle University opened up his institution’s experiences to us, describing how cross-organisational collaboration and a shared services approach have helped to transpose the quality and culture of UK higher education into the Malaysian context.
24/7 working for teachers and students is bringing major connectivity challenges
Yasir Alfadhl from Queen Mary University London explained how the traditional campus model is challenged when services must be available 24/7, irrespective of the teacher’s or the student’s location. Queen Mary University has a unique perspective on this, thanks to its innovative partnership with institutions in China to enable international institutions to come together to co-create and jointly teach programmes. A key difficulty was the fact that public routing systems route via the US, bringing delays and lost packages, but Queen Mary is overcoming this by working with CERNET and Janet to develop direct routes to Europe from China.
Developing this theme, Josh Howlett outlined how Janet's new Global Reach service is helping to drive collaborative provisioning of global connectivity through building relationships with local Research and Education Networks or delivering appropriate commercial connectivity.
IT services need to be properly planned into new building projects from the start to make sure they can support specific teaching and research requirements
Toby Fenton and Aaron Street of the Pirbright Institute of Animal Health gave an extremely interesting session on the difficulties of providing IT services in a very restrictive bio-secure environment. They have the monumental task of digitising nearly 100 years’ worth of paper records so that they are available to those working in their new high security lab, and that has brought particular challenges that they shared with the delegates.
We’re already moving on from Bring Your Own Device, to Bring Your Own Network!
Martin King from Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College described how, during a recent power outage, he discovered that many of the college’s students and teachers were able to carry on with their work via their own 3 and 4G connectivity. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the future for access to VLE and content.
4k-screen technology could be one to watch!
Students at the University of Leeds treated us to a really exciting production based on the story of Narcissus, using 4k-screen technology. It provides new opportunities for viewing, as the resolution of the recording allows for the whole piece to be viewed at once, negating the need for direction in order to capture the action.
Of all the sessions I attended, I was most struck with the engagement across the community in the Lightning Talks. We saw nine presenters, seven from the Jisc community, share their experiences and promote discussion with other delegates with five minute presentations on topics from management of printed data to digital terrorists.
Our final session in plenary saw the result of a piece of collaborative work between University of Leeds film students and Janet staff at our offices in Harwell. It was a brilliant piece of spoof and comedy and has made me see some of my colleagues in a new light! Impressive filming and editing by the students has produced, probably, one of the most memorable zombie films I’ve ever seen!
Networkshop43 will take place between 31 March and 2 April 2015 at the University of Exeter.