Regional network delivery challenges

The UCISA Executive met yesterday in Sheffield and the proposed changes to the regional delivery of JANET services on the agenda.

A number of years ago a number of metropolitan area networks (MANs) were established to deliver the JANET service to institutions within their given regions. Over the course of time, some of the MANs implemented or procured additional services but some also failed with the result that operation reverted to JANET (UK). The proposal is to move to a direct delivery model operated by JANET (UK).

There are advantages of a single provider managing the service from end to end. It should ensure consistency both in terms of the network infrastructure and the level of service to connected institutions. There should be lower unit costs for procurement as greater volumes of network equipment will be being purchased from suppliers at a given time. On the other hand the successful MANs have responded to the needs of their customers and are providing added value services such as dual connections to the network for their members (a sensible step for institutions to take in these days of high dependency on the network for all aspects of an institution’s business) and procured services such as email filtering. The regional focus of the MANs also allows greater engagement with the local community in line with the Government’s desire for HEIs to play a role in meeting the needs of the wider community in their region.

The business case for moving to the direct delivery model has not been made (at least has not been made publicly) and may be difficult to make given the diversity of service provision from the MANs. There are concerns that the level of service may not be maintained and that the local focus is lost. Not everyone is wedded to the current model – provided the service delivers what the institution wants does it matter where it has come from? The challenge will be to demonstrate that the new model can deliver the same level of service in a more cost effective manner.

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