The Slovak Academic Network (SANET) is the national research and education networking organization of Slovakia. SANET’s network connects all Slovakian universities with research institutes, and over 400 high schools in 36 towns. The role of SANET is to ensure the technical capabilities of the national science network infrastructure, providing efficient and high-capacity connections, in turn facilitating communication and data processing. Additionally, SANET offers web, email, and Domain Name System (DNS) hosting as services to its user community.
Working jointly on innovations, members regularly transfer large amounts of data and files but traditionally have suffered from the low bandwidth of the backbone network.
To improve daily operations, in 2016 SANET began upgrading its backbone network, ultimately increasing bandwidth from 10 Gbit/s to 100 Gbit/s.
Consisting of several national Slovakian Research and Development (R&D) centers, SANET members work on high-level, demanding initiatives, which require very high technological capabilities, including supercomputing and large data transfers between locations across the country. However, the 10 Gbit/s capacity of the national broadband network, shared among all network users, proved to be a significant obstacle, resulting in slow speeds and limiting the possibilities of data processing and exchange. In turn this impacted the development of Slovakian innovation.
“The main objective was to upgrade our backbone network so that we wouldn’t have to limit network speed for users who were transferring large amounts of data; previously, just one heavy user could saturate the entire network. For example, the national R&D Center in Košice, which deals with supercomputing and collaborates with international institutions on a daily basis, was transferring huge amounts of data, which practically exploited the entire network’s capabilities,” said Marian Ďurkovič, a member of the Board of Directors of SANET at the Slovak University of Technology, Bratislava. “We wanted to ensure that every science institution in Slovakia had the bandwidth and network capacity it needed.”
From the beginning of the project, SANET engineers knew that data consumption and demand for ever higher bandwidth often outpaces network technologies. Taking into account SANET’s key goal — to provide the smooth routing of packets of data from source to destination — simplified, physically small devices with low power requirements were deemed sufficient. Therefore, SANET decided to use Layer 2, connections even though, in large installations, Layer 3 devices are more typically used. While Layer 3 defines connections using both Media Access Control (MAC) and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, Layer 2 solely uses physical MAC addresses: direct communication that means greater speed, providing better performance for individual users.
SANET also wanted network equipment that was as easy to operate as possible – it did not require any extra features, typical of Layer 3 devices, which are also usually much more expensive.
Taking all of this into account, the most effective solution for SANET proved to be cloud installation, which is significantly easier to manage than typical Wide Area Network (WAN) devices. SANET decided to build a WAN based on specially designed cloud devices, namely Huawei CloudEngine switches, which are physically small and include only the essential features necessary in the transition.
An additional advantage of CloudEngine switches, was the support of protocol which allows network administrators to implement optimal routing of Internet packets and increases the overall quality of connection, including increased data transfer speeds, reduced packet-loss ratio, and reduced latency when connecting to the server. CloudEngine switches also provides network resilience, since every piece of the network is independently connected from two sides.
Transitioning the entire backbone network, increasing bandwidth tenfold, was potentially a lengthy and complex process. However, the cooperation between SANET and Huawei was flawless, with teams from both sides working closely throughout the entire implementation period.
“The Huawei team worked with us at every step of the network upgrade. For example, when, during the Proof of Concept (POC) stage, some minor bugs were noticed, they were fixed immediately,” says Marian Durkovic.
After upgrading, the increased bandwidth of the Slovakian backbone network greatly improved the daily communication, data sharing, and overall cooperation between scientific institutions across the country. For example, the R&D center in Košice can now use 10 Gbit/s solely for itself; previously it had to share this capacity with all other network members.
Another significant outcome of higher bandwidth is zero packet loss, a common feature of the old backbone network, given its unstable network infrastructure and the number of large data transfers.
Moreover, Operations and Maintenance (O&M) of the network is simplified. With the new Huawei CloudEngine switches built for a single purpose, without unnecessary features, configuring quality of service and maintaining it is easy. Furthermore, SANET’s new network requires far less power — since there are no superfluous functions — and physical space than traditional telecoms equipment: while other telecoms devices can take up a full rack, CloudEngine switches require just two rack units, consuming a fraction of the power.
“To properly function, education and innovation institutions across the country — including R&D centers — require extremely high network speeds and capacity. The tenfold upgrade of Slovakia’s education network bandwidth, to 100 Gbit/s, now enables over 400 scientific institutions to harness supercomputing processing, and transfer large amounts of data easily and quickly, without limitation. The improvement opens completely new perspectives for Slovakian science, and allows the possibility for more international collaboration,” commented Marian Ďurkovič.
SANET is completely satisfied with the cooperation with Huawei and the delivery of Huawei CloudEngine switches. “Our new infrastructure has performed without any issues since implementation. We are very content with the solution Huawei has provided us. 100 Gbit/s network speeds will be sufficient for years,” concluded Marian Ďurkovič.
SANET is an independent, non-profit, civil association, whose members agree to provide each other with Internet services, contributing to the operation of its network. Although SANET is a self-governing body, the Slovakian Ministry of Education contributes to SANET’s operation by subsidizing high schools and universities. SANET has operated a research and educational network in Slovakia since 1991. It connects universities, research institutes, and schools to a high-speed 100 Gbit/s backbone. Schools are connected to SANET by 1 Gbit/s links, with universities and research institutes connected by 10–100 Gbit/s links.