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South East Europe and SIG-MSP participants gather in Istanbul

SEE Team

SEE and SIG-MSP* met on 9 – 10 March in Istanbul, hosted by ULAKBIM, in times of uncertainty and travel restrictions dictated by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Mehmet Mirat SATOĞLU, director of ULAKBIM welcomed colleagues from South East Europe to support new collaborations and enhance GÉANT services uptake  within the region.  We are deeply grateful to ULAKBIM and the University of Marmara for hosting us in such an impressive room superbly located in the heart of the city.

The meeting on 9 March provided NRENs across the region a welcome opportunity to share experiences and best practices face to face.  Directors and senior managers were present from AMRES (Serbia), CyNet (Cyprus), GRNET (Greece), MARNET (North Macedonia), MREN (Montenegro), RASH (Albania) and ULAKBIM (Turkey).  Representatives from Bosnia & Herzegovina also took part to further understand the benefits of working with GÉANT along with colleagues managing the KODE project in *Kosovo. The afternoon started with Sebastiano Buscaglione (GÉANT Senior Network Architect) who updated the group on the network topology improvements in the GN4-3N project. The project will implement important upgrades and changes in the GÉANT network to support the needs of Europe’s R&E community in the next 15 years; it means improved connectivity and more fibre across the South East Europe region with the potential for new GEANT PoP locations.

All participants gave an overview of their current plans and proposed new collaborations with conversations that sparked suggestions and identified new funding opportunities. A working dinner with members of SIG-MSP followed and productivity continued.

If you would like to join this inspirational phase of the dedicated programme for the Western Balkans, please get in touch with GÉANT Partner Relations at:

SIG-MSP met on 10 March; attendance was exceptional, with a total of 39 participants joining from 26 countries, including delegates from as far afield as South Africa and three from Chile who dialled in at 3AM local time!

Bringing a SIG meeting to a new region offers a great opportunity to become familiar with the local host organisation. On this occasion, we worked with GEANT’s Turkish member ULAKBIM. Mehmet Mirat Satoğlu, our local host, presented the organisation’s extensive and very impressive service portfolio and e-infrastructure, and talked about their strategic interests highlighting innovation as their core focus. An interactive and lively session on best practice Service Portfolio management followed.

The second part of the day started with a focus on security which plays such a crucial  role in the NRENs’ services portfolio. Alf Moens, SURFnet, gave an update on the work being carried out by the GN4-3 project in their Security work package. Keeping the R&E networks safe and secure at backbone level and supporting GÉANT in an environment facing the increase of cyber-security threats, is the focus. Alf sent an open invitation to join the project – in particular for the preparation of training activities for the next cyber security month: October 2020.

Ramaz Kvatadze from GRENA followed by describing their cyber exercises portal and the successful CYBER-EXE events conducted jointly with the Georgian Governmental CERT.

The security session was concluded by Mark Tysom from Jisc, who remotely led a discussion around cyber security in the NREN portfolio, with a focus on cyber risk. Whilst cyber security challenges become more frequent, limited funding can be the cause of resource restrictions, recruitment and retention of skilled personnel.

As the day went on, Martin Bech, DeiC gave us the perfect recipe to create an NREN from scratch with five main ingredients: services, good people (with recommendation to hire students), funding (from governments or international projects), universities and other user institutions, and a legal entity allowed to operate networks.

The meeting concluded with a presentation on the European Open Science Cloud as an example of adapting to the changing NREN landscape. Our community is diverse in culture, composition and needs and our challenge is to listen to our users and make sure that our services are inclusive and global.  An important task is to strengthen the bond with research infrastructures, to  create new services to benefit researchers, teachers and students. As financial pressure grows, we need to strive to be as cost efficient as possible and maximise the value we bring in supporting pan-European goals.

In a lively online discussion with some remote participants, we learnt about the South African CSIRT and their cyber security challenge for students (, training reinforcement, plus growing agreements between CSIRTs in the Latin American continent and CESNET’s (Czech Republic) CSIRT activities.

We left Istanbul in high spirits with plans for further collaboration and ideas for future meetings. A few days later, as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions started taking over our normal way of life, we learnt that international travel and face to face meetings will need to stop for a while, but we know that the spirit of collaboration will continue to sparkle until we meet again.

You can find the presentations on GÉANT wiki pages.

*SIG-MSP: Special Interest Group on Management of Services Portfolio

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