Cape Verde, on the west coast of Africa, is an archipelago comprised of ten islands, with around 500,000 inhabitants. The country is on the route of the EllaLink submarine cable, directly connecting South America to Europe via the BELLA programme (Building the Europe Link to Latin America). However, Cape Verde did not qualify to make use of fiber pairs from the EllaLink cable and access to BELLA connectivity, as the country did not have its own academic network.
Brazilian researchers saw this as an opportunity for innovation and, alongside RNP, they submitted a proposal to the GÉANT Innovation Programme 2022 for a project – led by Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland – to help Cape Verde build its academic network.
The initiative called RENaaS – Research and Education Network as a Service – offers all the functionalities of a virtual network as a service, and can, with this paradigm shift, help developing countries to implement or even expand their academic networks at low cost.
“Cape Verde was an emblematic case. Institutions already have connectivity, there are commercial providers in the country. However, they do not have the privileges and facilities of an academic network”, declared Moisés Ribeiro, professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), participant in the project.
Brazil’s experience in helping other countries build their academic networks came with Mozambique, after a bilateral cooperation agreement signed in 2013. RNP helped design the Mozambique R&E network MoRENet, in addition to helping to implement ICT services, training professionals and supporting telehealth and safety projects. Like Mozambique, Cape Verde is also part of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP).
The RENaaS project is based on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), which proposes the creation of networks overlaid on the existing physical infrastructure, with functionalities that operate in a virtualized way, which makes it possible to offer the benefits of an NREN at lower costs.
“The proposed model was evaluated by GÉANT as interesting even for developed academic networks”, informs Frank Slyne, from Trinity College Dublin. “The infrastructure will enable rapid connectivity deployment and responses to congestion and failures. As it is cloud-based, it will also be convenient to provide relevant services to institutions, such as eduroam.”
RENaaS is the result of the confluence of other research projects and long-standing cooperation. The RARE testbed is worth mentioning, other than the H2020 EU-BRAZIL FUTEBOL, which already involved UFES in partnership with the Trinity College, and the NosFVeraTO Working Group, which was part of the RNP Research and Development Program in 2018.
From the latter, the Brazilian startup Vixphy emerged, also participating in RENaaS, which offers an open source private cloud and NFV solution.
Another partnering organisation in RENaaS is the Smart City CV Foundation, which is developing a Smart Cities project to create an innovation ecosystem in Cape Verde. A partnership is also being articulated with federations of NRENs such as the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN), so that other developing countries can benefit from the results of the pilot.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of December 2022. In March 2023, GÉANT will hold a workshop to show the results.
To learn more about the GÉANT Innovation Programme, visit https://community.geant.org/community-programme-portfolio/innovation-programme
Submitted by Fabíola Bezerra