Our daughter is 2 years old, so the days of teenage rebellion, boyfriends and empty nest are still (I hope) a long way away. However, when I heard about 1 billion eduroam authentications this week, it did feel a bit like I turned my head for a moment and all of a sudden my baby had turned into an adult.
Staying with the metaphor, I do vividly remember the birth process. From my half-finished idea that we tried out with Twente University and later Amsterdam Polytechnic, and that was frankly as much aimed at making our own life easier than that there was any grand vision, to the first international roaming with the University of Southampton. And after successfully demonstrating eduroam at the TNC in Zagreb, the growing pains… Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Denmark and many more countries joining, leading to heated debates about things like eligibility, security and the eduroam brand in the TERENA (now GÉANT) Mobility Task Force.
And then puberty hit. The GÉANT2 project was in dire need of middleware projects the European R&E community could get behind. Foolishly enough I wrote a short paragraph proposing both a pan-European authentication and authorisation infrastructure that would link the existing identity federations and a roaming service. Frankly, I have cursed that thought at times over the following years. All of a sudden the free spirit that was the eduroam community was reigned in, and we had to grow up. The operative words became operational excellence, policy frameworks, monitoring and performance metrics. And even though important activities like those in the IETF on standardising RadSec took place, eduroam led too often the life of a sulky teenager hiding in her room instead of showing the world what had become of her. Eventually, though she came out of that stronger and more powerful than ever.
In the meanwhile, the rest of the world, led by Australia, Japan, Canada and later the US, started eduroam activities of their own. And before we knew it South-American, African and Asian countries were following suit. Today 76 countries in every continent bar Antarctica participate in eduroam and over 1 billion authentications have been performed. Even though eduroam is yet to hit 18, my baby certainly grew up to become a very sweet 16!
To quote Bob Dylan:
“May your song always be sung / May you stay forever young!”