Two-year project boosts REANNZ network speed, cuts costs

New Zealand's national research network gains a massive speed boost and resiliance through a public-private partnership with FX Networks.

New Zealand's scientific and academic research network, REANNZ, has completed a network rebuild covering both its national and international networks.

Chief executive Steve Cotter said a public-private partnership under which REANNZ now co-owns a network with FX Networks has enabled single points of failure in the network to be eliminated (see network maps) and points of presence (PoPs) to be increased in key locations.

In exchange for 25 percent of the capital to build the network, REANNZ gained 25 percent of the capacity, he said. That opened up to 20 100Gbit/s wavelengths that REANNZ can provision anywhere it wants for the cost of purchasing its own network cards.

"We got all of that capacity, up to 200 times what we had before, for about 60 percent of what it was previously costing us," he said.

The strategy behind the switch was to escape contractual lock-in with commercial carriers under a managed services agreement.

Bandwidth can be turned up in a matter of minutes, which is critical to support researchers who have short duration experiments or for testing.

"That was really difficult to do and the commercial carriers all required one years contracts," Cotter said.

REANNZ also has full visibility into the system and can see all alarms and performance statisitcs, which is vital for a high performance network.

REANNZ separately constructed a deal to tap into Australia's AARNet research network as it passes through Auckland on Southern Cross, boosting international capacity from 1GBit/s in each direction to 43Gbit/s in each direction.

That link went live last April.

"For the first time New Zealand researchers are on par with their Australian and other international counterparts in terms of their ability to participate in these international science projects," he said

FX Networks was subsequently bought by Australia's Vocus Communications, but Cotter said such an eventuality was catered for in the contract. REANNZ does not have an equity stake in the business but a share in ownership of the network itself.

"We can buy our own hardware and put it in in any way we want," he said. "We thought we can be innovative in lots of ways and we could be innovative in the business model as well."

Cotter said there had been 145 percent growth in international traffic and 85 percent total growth across the whole network in the last year.