The Hungarian Information Infrastructure Development (IIF) Program has started in 1986, with the goal of establishing the computer network for the research, higher education, and public collection communities in Hungary. The Program has originally been initiated and supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Committee for Technological Development. The number of the available experts was limited at that time, but the devotedness and capabilities of the small but excellent development team has resulted in considerable progress within a relatively short period of time.
After five successful years - among others after having established the basic elements of the domestic research network - ie. around the start of the 90’s, all related ministries and also OTKA (the National Scientific Research Fund) have supportively joined the Program that has been called since then NIIF (National Information Infrastructure Development) Program.
The high level decision making body of NIIFP has been consisting of secretary of state level representatives delegated by the organisations (mainly ministries), taking part as supporters in the Program. Earlier that high level bodies were the “Supervisory Committee” and the “Operative Committee”, while recently, from the late 90’s, high level decisions are made by the “Program Committee”
Since the announcement of the 1999 Governmental Decree about the NIIF Program, the representatives of the related ministries and other high level organisations (members of the Program Committee) have played a distinct role in taking part of supervising the execution of the Program receiving the major part of its funding from the stately budget, in accordance with the regulations layed down by the 1999 Government Decree.
The continuously successful practical execution of the Program is co-ordinated by the NIIF Institute (NIIFI), on the basis of a co-ordination practice and experiences of more than ten years. The co-ordination task, related to the development and operation of the R&E network infrastructure, is similar to those earlier tasks having been the duties of the predecessor organisations, the IIF Coordination, and later NIIF Coordination Offices.
In executing the Program, NIIFI co-operates with:
- all the supporting organisations and also with the Program Committee consisting of the representatives from the supporting organisations (ministries etc.);
- all the institutions participating at the Program (research, higher education, public collection communities), and especially HUNGARNET , the Association comprising the institutions from the user community;
- the Technical Committee serving NIIFI and specifically the Program Committee as their expert advisory body.
NIIFI, together with HUNGARNET, keeps a wide spectrum of intensive and fruitful international relations . These relations cover both organisational and technical affairs. Among the co-operation partners there one can find all those European and global organisations having similar goals as the Hungarian academic, research, and public collection communities in the fields of research networking.
From among the results of the last several years it is worth to mention the following ones, having been achieved within the frameworks of the NIIF Program:
· the network infrastructure, and the services, applications, application contents, user capabilities and aptitudes, based on that infrastructure, have been well established, andcontinuously developed , while, at the same time, also the aggregate user community from the areas of research, education, and public collection, has also been continuously widened;
· between 1987 and 1990, the first version of the country-wide network, having connected the most important research institutes, university departments, and public libraries, has been built, on the basis of in house developed X.25 technologies, by allowing the user community to access the basic services such as e-mail, file-transfer, remote log-in, etc.;
· the political changes in the year 1990 have brought the opportunity of considerably widening the so far modest international relations: following the EARN-BITNET and EUNET contacts, full Internet connection has also been established;
· at the same time, the internal backbone of the research network, called HBONE, has also been built up, on the basis of IP technology, by connecting the user MANs of the capital and the most important regions within the country;
· HUNGARNET, the Hungarian Academic and Research Network Association has been founded in 1991, and from that date, also formal international relations have been established with the international organisations, namely with RARE, EARN, and later TERENA , as well as RIPE , ISOC , CEENET , etc.;
· from 1992, the regional R&E networking centres, as a first step in 20 regions of Hungary, have been step by step created, allowing integration of the local services and applications into the system of the central services/applications of the NIIF Program;
· in 1993, HUNGARNET/NIIF has joined the European research networking “operational unit”, DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Networking Technology to Europe);
· from 1994, more than 200 NIIF/HUNGARNET institutions have had already international connectivity through EuropaNET, operated by DANTE;
· the number of the users has doubled every year and until 1995 it has reached 100.000, while the monthly data traffic, having quadrupled every year, has increased above 1000 GByte;
· thanks to the results and the successful international relations, 1996 brought the first 2 Mbps international access speed to almost 300 institutions and about 200.000 users in Hungary;
· 1997 was the year of another milestone: NIIF/HUNGARNET has joined the leading edge European research networks in their joint efforts related to the EC supported, highly advanced TEN-34 project;
· within TEN-34, 10+5 Mbps European and overseas access speed and a new, 2 Mbps internal backbone has served, from 1998, the almost 300.000 users of the research network, while the capacities on the regional and metropolitan levels have also considerably increased;
· the year 1999 has brought the next breakthrough: the new Governmental Decree about the NIIF Program has been announced, by reforming the supervision, and by strengthening the financial stability of the Program, while, in parallel, also the participation of NIIF/HUNGARNET at the EC-supported QUANTUM (TEN-155 ) project has been started;
· the international/intercontinental access speeds of the NIIF/HUNGARNET network have reached first 68/34 Mbps, later 155/78 Mbps, and again later 310/155 Mbps during 2000, while HBONE has been transformed to a 155 Mbps backbone with 3.5 Gbps aggregate capacity, and, on the European level, the preparations for the GEANT project have also been started in Hungary;
· the year 2001 has been characterised by more than 400 user institutions and about 400.000 individual users within these institutions, while the national backbone, thanks to the rapidly emerging competition on the newly liberalised Hungarian telecommunication market, also passed a very fast development period, so that it has practically reached the level of the European leading edge;
· from early 2002, (practically as soon as in late 2001 the operation of the GEANT network has started), the R&E network users in Hungary have already enjoyed the 2.5 Gbps GEANT access speed, while also the internal backbone speed has been increased to 2.5 Gbps, together with a notable success of several technology and/or application oriented internal projects, such as those related to high performance computing , grids, Ipv6 , video conferencing , VoIP , a wide range of services, etc.
· since 2003 both the international GEANT connectivity and the internal network of NIIF/HUNGARNET has considerably developed: within a two years period: 10 Gbps has been reached as the characteristic speed both internally and internationally, followed by entering the GEANT+ service (10 Gbps IP + 10 Gbps e2e [end-to-end] capacity), while also the number of development projects, including those international co-operations funded by the EU FP5 and FP6 Programme (GN1,GN2, 6NET, 6DISS, EGEE-1, EGEE-2, KnowARC, SEEREN-1, SEEREN-2, SEEFIRE) has considerably increased within the activities of NIIF/HUNGARNET.
Under the co-ordination of NIIFI, the development of the network infrastructure for the Hungarian academic and research community has achieved considerable results, also acknowledged beyond the borders of the country.
NIIF/HUNGARNET has, for many years, indeed been playing an active role in the international co-operation related to the field of research networking. The available services provide excellent information access and communication means for the Hungarian researchers, university professors, and other users. These means are commensurable to those serving the R&E user communities in the EU countries.
· More than 600.000 users from about 500 institutions (some 6 % of the Hungarian population) can access the advanced infrastructure and services via the academic and research network (early 2006 data).
· The number of the regional centres is over 30 – these centres closely co-operate with NIIFI but are independent in operating the regional system and providing regional services.
· The speed of the internal backbone in Hungary went through a rapid development during the last several years. Immediately after the 1999-2000 liberalisation of the Hungarian telecom market, the starting competition has been exploited and, by generating a considerable international recognition and applause, the characteristic speed of TEN-155 has been reached at late 2000 - early 2001, while in 2002 the gigabit level has also been achieved, in accordance with the GEANT access speed of HUNGARNET/NIIF. In parallel, the capacities of the access networks beyond the HBONE nodes are continuously upgraded.
· From late 2001, the international access speed is 2.5 Gbps, and the subscribed commodity access is characterised by 155 (early 2001), 310 (late 2001), and 622 Mbps (early 2003) speeds. In late 2003 the GEANT access capacity of NIIF/HUNGARNET has been upgraded to 10 Gbps and from 2005, as a partner to the GEANT-2 developments, the Hungariaqn academic and research networking community has a 10+10 Gbps international access, with gigabit commodity (DWS, DANTE World Service) traffic - all these together with the continuous development of the internal network connectivity, in parallel with the upgrading of the international access speeds.
· A number of internal projects are running under the umbrella of the NIIF Program: developing the network technology and the infrastructure (HBONE/GEANT, E2E, Ipv6, QoS, MPLS, VPN, multicast, cache, monitoring, management, etc), widening the spectrum of the network services (HPC, tele-working, VoIP, videoconferencing, disciplinary portals, virtual helpdesk, CERT, directories, PKI/CA, etc.), as well as network applications (distributed/integrated databases, tele-teaching, disciplinary applications, ClusterGrid, etc.).
The homogeneous nation-wide network infrastructure is complemented by a number of further leading-edge elements in the NIIF related activities:
- providing a national pilot system with their pilot applications,
- building a nation-wide networking test-bed,
- dissemination of networking expertise,
- distribution the culture of using the network,
- teaching and training new generations of network experts,
- continuous widening of the user community,
- keeping legitimate international contacts by taking into account the European standards in the fields of international co-operation, and by supporting, on the basis of these international relations, also the EU integration of Hungary.
All these elements provide a solid background for a continuous, country-wide, multifaceted, competitive, overall development of the IT sector in Hungary.
The mutually advantageous relation between NIIFI and the telecommunication companies in Hungary is of extreme importance. This relation has been broadened and deepened since the liberalisation of the telecommunication market in Hungary. Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons behind these good relations:
· the non-profit operation of the virtual private network, managed by NIIFI, applies a well defined AUP (Acceptable Use Policy), and also the coverage of the user community is strictly limited by clear rules stemming from the research network status – which means that the NIIF infrastructure isn’t a competitor, in any aspect, to the commercial service providers;
· through their research networking relations, the Hungarian telecommunication service providers repeatedly face demanding orders, as a result of the strictly regulated procurement procedures applied by NIIFI;
· the international commercial as well as co-operation opportunities for the telecommunication service providers are also widening, especially in the areas of introducing and applying advanced network technologies;
· the NIIF Program has a positive effect on the demands, capabilities, and preparedness of the wide potential user community, by this way also positively influencing the telecommunication / electronic communication market.
GEANT-1 and GEANT-2 are the results of major international EU projects having provided new generations of a leading edge backbone network infrastructure for thousands of academic and research institutions, and millions of users, within about 30 countries, since the autumn of 2001. NIIF/HUNGARNET has been a partner in both projects and similarly, intends to participate in the preparation of the successor projects aiming at developing the further GEANT generations. The participation in these leading edge European projects, and the related internal developments are eminent interests of NIIF/HUNGARNET, and of Hungary at large, because of at least two main reasons:
· on one hand, these developments provide the domestic academic and research community with a leading-edge network infrastructure for keeping electronic contacts and accessing digital information, and thus, for enabling the Hungarian academic and research communities to co-operate with their partners world-wide, on the basis of a really competitive background infrastructure;
· on the other hand, the NIIF developments are advanced forerunners of IT progress in Hungary. By providing pilots for those forthcoming network developments and applications going on throughout the country as part of the overall Hungarian development activities, and moreover, in a certain sense, these developments are the first country-wide distributors of the related technologies, services, and applications.
By recognising this double significance and double role of research networking, the government of Hungary, similarly to the governments of other developed countries, provides considerable financial support for the national research and education network developed and operated within the frameworks of the NIIF Program. NIIF/HUNGARNET also benefits from the similar support available on behalf of the EU (EC) – the EC provides remarkable, and gradually increasing, funds for supporting, on the European level, the GEANT-like competitive developments.
The Hungarian academic and research networking community, being the major beneficiary of the developments within the NIIF Program, is proud about marching together with the leading edge of the European research networking organisations in the developments of GEANT, and by developing the related internal infrastructure. NIIFI, HUNGARNET, and the hundreds of institutions, as well as hundreds of thousands of users, do continue their related efforts also in the future, and do truly hope that the conditions of these developments in Hungary will allow the NIIF Program to be continued in line with the European leading edge.