An Oracle blog about Education and Research

Connecting the Cloud – The Rise of Academic Cloud Exchanges

In my blog series, I’m going to deep-dive into the public higher education and academic research sector in order to better understand how Oracle can maximize its impact across the whole diameter of this strategic customer ecosystem.

Let’s Get Started

In the last four decades, the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) have been developed from being a specialized Internet Service Provider (ISP) dedicated to serve the public research and education communities within a country to a regional conglomerate of e-Infrastructure Providers not only offering connectivity services but also covering national identity federations (Single-Sign-On infrastructures), computer security incident response teams (CSIRT), and lately public cloud service brokering functions, coordinated across the globe. Providing access to more and cheaper Internet bandwidth as well as to dedicated transport network capacities has always been the requirement of higher education institutions and academic research laboratories for connecting their collaborative research applications world-wide. With the advent of public cloud services, sufficient connectivity to major cloud providers is ever so more important for the entire public sector.

Fast Connectivity

So, the obvious question from public sector institutions is then where they can safely and securely meet relevant cloud providers such as Oracle? They are looking for an easy-to-reach location at the minimum expense, preferably via their trusted connectivity provider partner i.e. the NREN of the country. 

Oracle is present at the major Internet Exchange Points (IXP) across the globe and the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) can be reached via the public Internet as well as via dedicated Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions on top. Moreover, Oracle FastConnect service provides both public and private peering options via multiple 1 or 10 Gbps dedicated private connections between the customers’ location and OCI data centers without using VPN of Network Address Translation (NAT). To extend the reach of OCI, Oracle works with an extensive network of commercial FastConnect Network Provider or Exchange Partners such as Verizon, Equinix and many others.

Cloud Exchange services are being offered by the major IXPs and commercial data centers around the world, and NRENs – due to their unique positions in the public sector – have also started to advertise themselves as de-facto cloud exchange points for their academic research and education institutions. Technically speaking, these emerging academic cloud exchanges are either Layer 2 Ethernet Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) based switching fabrics or Layer 3 IP Boarder Gateway Protocol (BGP) peering routers often implemented in a distributed architecture inside the NRENs’ network. The advantage for Oracle being logically present at these Academic Cloud Exchanges is basically the fact that all higher education and academic research customers (in some countries other public bodies such as government agencies, libraries, schools, hospitals) can connect us by default at their lowest possible expense, leveraging their existing trusted NREN provider.

Academic Cloud Exchanges

As one of the pioneers, Internet2 – the national research and education network in the US – announced the general availability of their Internet2 Cloud Connect Service in March 2019. The exchange allows the Internet2 community to leverage its regional and national infrastructure to directly access leading cloud services including Oracle. Internet2 customers can use their connection points on the Internet2 packet network to establish packet connectivity at either Layer 2 or Layer 3 to cloud providers.

Similarly in Europe, the European association of research and education networks called GÉANT also offers a distributed cloud exchange service for academia referred as the GÉANT Cloud VRF. This is implemented as a dedicated Layer 3 Virtual Rerouting and Forwarding (VRF) overlay on top of the GÉANT backbone network. GÉANT makes sure that traffic in the Cloud VRF can only be exchanged between customers and their selected cloud providers via transparent BGP tagging and filtering mechanism.  

AARNet in Australia has been taken the leading role in the Asia Pacific region. AARNet Connect enables service providers to connect to the AARNet network in order to provide hosted and cloud-based services to AARNet’s customers. Like traditional peering, it allows traffic between service providers and AARNet customers to be unmetered and congestion free – bypassing commercial Internet peering exchanges.

Where To Go

All these examples above call for a coordinated action at the global scale enabling Oracle to strategically engage these NRENs and their conglomerates in the various geographies. Cloud connectivity is just the very first but important step in this journey, I’m going to explore further technical and business enablers in my next coming blog posts. Strategic partnership with the key players of the global research and education ecosystem must go above and beyond.

Oracle is sponsoring the largest and most prestigious European research and education networking conference TNC’19, held on 16-20 June 2019, in Tallinn, Estonia. Come visit and learn more about Oracle solutions!  To learn more about how Oracle is enabling research at scale, visit us here.

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