Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vocational Education Broadband Network

The Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has issued a Request for Expression of Interest for the provision of Vocational Education Broadband Network Backbone Network Provider. This is for a $80M Vocational Education Broadband Network (VEN) announced by the Prime Minister 22 April 2009, in response to the 2020 Summit. The RFI is deficient in not addressing inter-working with Australia's existing educational backbone network (AARnet) and not requiring IPv6.

The new backbone will interconnect the state TAFEs and other vocation training organisations. There is a requirements document available for downloading (366 KByte,Ms-word format) .

No Mention of AARnet

What is not clear from the RFI is why Australia needs a second national education network backbone. The Australia Academic and Research Network (AARNet) is run by a not-for-profit company to connect Australian universities and the CSIRO. AARNet has been at forefront of the development of the Internet in Australia for twenty years. AARNet already connects many vocational educational providers in Australia, were these are provided in conjunction with universities. There is no good reason to duplicate this service.

As an example, AARnet now provides a roaming service "EduRoam", which allows those from one educational institution to use the network at another. This service would be very useful if extended to the vocational sector and preferable to that sector having to establish its own system.

The vocational network RFI requirements document does not mention AARnet.

No requirement for IPv6

The RFI document specifies the use of the IPv4 address space. This address space is reaching its limits. Other deficiencies with IPv4 have been identified, particularly security and IPv6 was developed to address this. AARnet supports IPv6. The lack of any mention of IPv6 for the vocational network appears to be a fundamental flaw.

Lack of Coordination of Vocational and Higher Education Policies

Data networking is one example of a general lack of coordination of IT resources between vocational and higher education in Australia. The Australian Government is funding duplicated programs for e-learning for the vocational and university sectors. In many cases these parallel programs are duplicating effort, working on essentially the same requirement and coming up with the same answers.

From the Vocational Education Broadband Network RFI:

Overview

Background

Broadband infrastructure is an essential platform for world class teaching, learning and research. The education and training sector needs access to broadband infrastructure on terms that are affordable, predictable and priced in ways that ensure it can be used to maximum educational effect. Currently, broadband connections in the education and training sector are variable in quality and speed.

In this context, the Prime Minister announced funding of $80 million for a high speed Vocational Education Broadband Network (VEN) on 22 April 2009. The announcement formed part of the Australian Government’s Response to the 2020 Summit.

An implementation strategy for the VEN has been developed, endorsed by senior Commonwealth and State officials and noted by the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE). The implementation strategy and any further background information and documentation relating to the VEN may be accessed on the DEEWR website at www.deewr.gov.au/VEN. It is noted in the implementation strategy that up to $70m will be available for the broadband element of the VEN.

This Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) relates to the establishment and operation of a VEN Backbone Network (VBN) that will:

  1. leverage existing infrastructure as far as possible;
  2. provide interconnections between existing networks serving Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions in each state and territory; and
  3. be able to be accessed by non-TAFE registered training organisations, school authorities, peering networks and providers of online education and training resources.

Scope

The Commonwealth, represented by and acting through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), invites expressions of interest (responses) from interested organisations to establish and operate the VBN for an initial period of three years.

Subject to further consideration by Government, there may be potential to extend the initial period.

DEEWR's objectives

In broad terms, DEEWR intends that the VBN will achieve the following objectives (Overall Objectives):

  1. Provide high-capacity connectivity across Australia, with at least one point-of-presence (PoP) in each state and territory. The desired location and/or number of PoPs will be determined having regard to responses received through this REOI and the views of State and Territory stakeholders.
  2. Provide redundancy mechanisms, including alternative routes between major PoPs to limit the loss of connectivity between major PoPs in the event of a single link failure.
  3. In each state and territory, provide a peering connection between the VBN PoP and a designated PoP for the whole of government or other government network operating in that state or territory. Advice from stakeholders will be required relating to such connections.
  4. Provide sufficient capacity to enable bandwidth-intensive applications, such as near-high definition video conferencing, to be delivered across State and Territory boundaries to the PoPs in each jurisdiction. DEEWR expects that the initial capacity of the backbone network links will generally not be less than 1 Gbps, although lower initial speeds may be acceptable on links to less populous States and Territories, where these would be sufficient to meet expected needs.
  5. Be capable of being upgraded readily and at reasonable cost.
  6. Be capable of providing peering links to non-training organisations, and online resource providers of interest to TAFE institutions, routed in ways that do not incur additional charges (e.g. traffic charges).
  7. Be accessible to other (non-TAFE) registered training organisations. It is intended that such providers will have access to the services, applications and content available on the VEN on commercial terms and conditions.
  8. Be accessible to, and have sufficient capacity to allow connection by, school authorities that may wish to connect to it.
  9. Leverage existing infrastructure as far as possible.

DEEWR has set out in Schedule 2 (Other Information) its initial views as to how these Overall Objectives may be achieved. ...

Schedule 2 – Other information

Essential requirements

Respondents should include in their response evidence that it meets the Essential Requirement in relation to Capability (see paragraph 2.3.1 of the REOI).

Detailed solution

Respondents should include in their response details of their proposed solution, with a particular focus on how that solution will meet the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI.

Respondents may propose more than one solution.

Where supporting material is provided, the respondent must clearly specify which paragraphs of that material are relevant to the requirements listed in this Schedule 2 (Other Information).

Respondents should also include a response to each of the attributes described below in Section 3 of this Schedule 2 (Other Information).

Attributes

Architecture and Topology

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution should include the following attributes:

Provide Internet Protocol (IP) network-centric architecture.

Make use of the IPv4 address space.

Be capable of providing for IPv4 multicast traffic.

Be capable of meeting industry standards in the delivery of low latency network design specifications for the delivery of real-time voice and video services.

Be capable of supporting Quality of Service (QoS) delivery mechanisms that ensure service levels across multiple classes of services for end users can be met.

Support any-to-any connectivity between connected VBN users.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not meet these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Network Capacity

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will include the following attributes.

Provide actual bandwidth of 1Gbps or more (uncontested) on the major VBN backbone links (Adelaide-Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane) that support the high availability of the core VBN backbone.

Provide capacity of at least 100Mbps or more on any other identified links (Adelaide-Perth, Adelaide-Darwin, Brisbane-Darwin, Melbourne-Hobart).

Provide symmetrical bandwidth for peer-to-peer traffic between VBN users.


Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not meet these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

how the respondent's solution could be scaled up and the likely cost and timeframe for doing this.

Points-of-Presence (PoPs)

DEEWR's initial view is that PoPs will be required in each of the following locations:

Sydney

Melbourne

Brisbane

Perth

Canberra

Adelaide

Hobart

Darwin


Please detail:

if the respondent's solution will include the PoPs described above;

if applicable, any recommendations as to why alternative PoPs should be considered; and

if alternative PoPs were adopted, how these will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

any additional PoP locations at which the respondent has existing infrastructure.

Peering

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution should include the following attributes:

Provide a peering connection in each state and territory between the VBN PoP and:

a designated PoP for the whole of government; or

other government network PoPs operating in that state or territory (e.g., Education and Training authority PoPs).

Be capable of peering with other private educational authorities as and when required.

Be capable of peering with non-educational organisations and content providers.

Be structured and priced in a way that ensures that traffic between peering users that traverses the VBN does not incur additional traffic charges.


Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not meet these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

VBN Access

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will need to be capable of providing connectivity to users through the use of a variety of access methods and carrier connections.


Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will provide connectivity to users;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, a variety of access methods and carrier connections may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not include a variety of access methods and carrier connections, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Redundancy

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will need to include the following attributes:

Provide redundancy mechanisms, including alternative routes between major PoPs to limit the loss of connectivity in the event of a single point of failure.

Be supported by the establishment of at least two PoPs serving as VBN core nodes (i.e. primary and secondary nodes).

Make use of other redundancy mechanisms, such as:

Additional fibre routes,

Redundant network hardware,

Redundant power systems (including generators, multi-phased power),

Virtual switching technologies used for automated fail-over,

The use of leveraging underpinning third-party wholesale carriage services.


Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not deliver these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Performance

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN would need to include the following attributes:

be available at least 99.9% of each calendar month, measured on a 24 x 7 basis (excluded agreed maintenance windows); and

meet other minimum service levels for voice and video service classes in relation to:

end-to-end delay;

end-to-end jitter; and

error threshold (packet loss ratio).


Please set out what service levels the respondent would be prepared to commit to in relation to:

availability (as a percentage);

end-to-end delay (one way) (in milliseconds);

end-to-end jitter (one way) (in milliseconds); and

error threshold (packet loss ratio) (shown as a percentage).

Where the availability service level is lower than the level set above, please explain how this will achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI and provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Please also provide information in relation to:

the mechanisms that would be used to measure whether the service level is being achieved; and

the rebates and other remedies that may be available to DEEWR if the service levels are not achieved.

Security

The VBN solution will need to have a design and an operational environment that is secure against malicious and non-malicious threats. The design and operational environment should provide identification, authentication and access control mechanisms that protect against:

Unauthorised access to the VBN and its connected networks; and

Access to VBN stakeholder connected networks by means considered unauthorised and/or inappropriate.


Please:

detail what security methods the respondent's solution will employ; and

provide information about the current security level classifications and certifications of network infrastructure and systems currently operated by the respondent within Australia.

Internet Access

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will need to provide parties which are connected to the VBN with the option of accessing traffic from the wider internet via a VBN provided internet gateway or via peering connections to Whole-of-Government or education and training arrangements, incorporating network and security mechanisms that restrict unauthorised access.


Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver internet access;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, internet access may not be required to be delivered in accordance with the approach set out above; and

where the respondent's solution does not deliver internet access in accordance with the approach set out above:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Please also outline the secured internet network design and its key components.

Operational Support and Services

The VBN solution will need to include the provision of high quality operational support and services.


Please:

describe the respondent's approach to service support and provide details of the minimum levels of support the respondent is able to provide;

identify the range of service support offerings available to DEEWR that deliver proactive monitoring and support of the VBN;

outline the management tools and processes for service management reporting to stakeholders; and

provide supporting information relating to the proposed account management practices for the operation of the VBN. ...

From: Request for Expression of Interest for the provision of Vocational Education Broadband Network Backbone Network Provider, ATM ID DEEWR EOI PRN24590, DEEWR, 18 February 2010

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