BERNET: BANGLADESH EDUCATION AND RESEARCH NETWORK


M. Lutfar Rahman

1.   INTRODUCTION

Computer networks enable computers to exchange information with each other in a meaningful way. Computer cialis online pharmacy networks now wrap around the world and electronic mail and electronic data interchange are common place. Communication between computers is a fundamental requirement for sustaining and developing modern trade, industry, education and culture. Academic and research institutions need to exchange information for research and development activities. Cooperative activities between such institutions help in accelerating research and development activities and resource sharing. A nation-wide computer network connecting educational and research institutions should be established in Bangladesh on priority basis.

A proposal, by this author, for setting up Bangladesh Education and Research Network (BERNET) was accepted as one of the recommendations in the workshop on “Application of computer communications in Educational Institutions in Bangladesh” organized jointly by the Ministry of Education, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and National Training and Research Academy for Multilingual Shorthand (NTRAMS), Bogra held on 9 September 1995 at National Academy for Education and Management (NAEM), Dhaka.

This article presents a draft outline with a view to set up the BERNET, a wide area network for connecting the educational and research institutes of Bangladesh. The BERNET may be set up under the management of the Bangladesh University Grants Commission (BUGC) and initially the network should connect the universities and research institutes of the country and the network should gradually be extend to relevant administrative departments, collages, schools, madras has and the resources abroad.

2.  OBJECTIVES OF THE BERNET

The network will make the interconnection between the institutions and researchers, irrespective  of their geographical locations, through dialup or leased telephone lines and other means of communications (e.g. VSAT, Packet switching public data network) if and when available. The possibility of using the spare capacity of the optical fiber connection of the Bangladesh Railway may also be examined. The BERNET should be set up and expanded in phases.

Phase I:

The applications and services for Phase I should be: Electronic mail and File transfer (text).

Phase II:

The applications and services for phase II should be:  Document transfer and Database access (offline and online).

Phase  III:
Setting up a National gateway in Dhaka for connection through the Internet to databases outside Bangladesh.

3.  POSSIBLE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BERNET

The BERNET should have four levels of hierarchy. The first level consisting of the central node and forming the main frame of the network should be established in Dhaka. The second level consisting of the city nodes (e.g. Rajshahi node, Khulna node, Chittagong node etc.) should act as the clearing houses for the traffic originating or terminating over the regions. The third level (organization nodes) consisting of individual laboratory or institution nodes maybe connected directly to the central node or connected to it through city nodes. The user nodes should form the fourth level of the hierarchy. The individual institution or research nodes in Dhaka city should be connected to the central node directly via dialup or leased telephone lines. Fig 1 shows a possible layered hierarchy of the BERNET. The Communication between the central node, city and organization nodes may be based on UUCP (Unix to Unix Copy) protocol using dialup (or leased) telephone lines. The user node of the BERNET may use DOS system.

4. CONNECTIVITY, TECHNOLOGY AND PROTOCOL

The choice of technology is dictated by the volume of data traffic. The BERNET may use any or all of the following communication links.

-  Dialup lines of the Bangladesh T&T Board

-  Leased lines of the Bangladesh T&f Board

- Packet switched Public Data Network (PSPDN) to be introduced by the Bangladesh T&T Board

-   VSAT links to be installed by the Bangladesh T&T Board.

The UUCP protocol, a part of the UNIX system, is used for data communication between the mail nodes. It is a store and forward protocol and supports the following functions

-  Mail transfer

-  Remote command execution

-  File transfer

With these functions mentioned above, UUCP should support E-mail and file transfer applications of the BERNET. The BERNET should follow the domain based naming and addressing conventions. An e-mail address is generally represented as: userid@domain name.

5. NODES AND THEIR TECHNOLOGY

Two types of nodes for the BERNET could be mail nodes and user nodes. The characteristics of each type are given belows:

Mail node: It should be a good quality microcomputer forming a part of the network and should perform all functions related to e-mail. It should use UNIX operating system and UUCP for mail exchange. It should have the following capacity:

-  a microcomputer with 32-bit processor (or above)

-  8 MB RAM

-   1GB hard disk drive

-   1.44 floppy disk drive

-  RS 232C ports (2 or more)

-  Parallel port for printer

-  14.4 kbps (or above) modem having error corrective facility

-  Telephone line with STD

-  UNIX supporting UUCP (Unix to Unix copy)

User node: Any user computer that is registered with a mail node on the network where a mail-box is assigned to it. The user should log into the mail node to collect and deposit mails. Its characteristics could be:

-  any personal computer

-  Min640KBRAM

-  one floppy disk drive

-  RS 232C port and modem with 2400 bps or above

-  Telephone line (with STD)

-  Operating system: DOS

-  PROCOM, CROSSTALK, QMPRO or similar packages

6. NETWORK MANAGEMENT

Once operational, the BERNET should require  minimum   attention.  The central node to be setup under the management of the BUGC should include a network management centre for the efficient management of the BERNET. The most of the problems faced by the users are caused by the modems. The users should be trained to reset the modem parameters when changed. The reliable telephone line is essential for data communication.

If the telephone lines do not work nothing can be done. The central and city nodes and the machines of the BERNET management centre should be reliable and their downtime should be zero.

7.  GATEWAY TO INTERNATIONAL NETWORKS

A gateway will be required to connect the users of the BERNET to the Internet and other international networks. The central node of the BERNET, Dhaka should connect its users to international networks through the gateway. A gateway should be established at Dhaka under the management of the BUGC or an appropriate authority.

8. EXPENDITURE FOR THE CENTRAL NODE

The central node should first be setup and users of Dhaka city should be encouraged to use the central node. The approximate expenditure for setting up the main facility of the central node and its manpower are estimated (please see the box below). Besides   the  main  facilities,   a  number  of microcomputers, printers and other peripheral devices will be required.

A well equipped computer centre should be established for the BERNET and its management and administration. The computer centre for the central node will require qualified and experienced administrative and technical personnel.

9. CITY NODES AND THE GATEWAY

The expenditure to setup the technical equipment for the city nodes and the manpower for them should be less than the central node. However, first the central node should be established and the city nodes then be setup gradually to cover the whole country.

A national gateway should be setup at Dhaka for -.connecting the BERNET users to the facilities abroad. The estimated expenditure for setting up the gateway should be about 2 crore taka and it will involve considerable technical know how. A team of experts may be sent abroad (Singapore or India) to earn practical knowledge and know how for setting up the gateway. Financial assistance and technical advise may be obtained from the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP).

10. DATABASE ACCESS

Indigenous databases may be developed under the management of the BUGC in cooperation with the BANSDOC, Dhaka for the BERNET users. The BERNET users should be in a position to subscribe to these online indigenous databases which should be installed on the host computer in the central node of the BERNET. The database for the following subjects may be developed for online access through the BERNET:

-  National catalogue of scientific serials/journals

-  Current contents of national journals

-  Databases for different professional journals  (e.g.  medical, agriculture, engineering etc)

-  Database on Bangladeshi experts in different fields

-  Database on Bangladeshi patents etc.

11.  CONCLUSIONS

1.  Suggestions have been made for setting the BERNET under the management of the Bangladesh University Grants Commission.

2.  The central node should be established first with e-mail and file transfer facilities.

3.  The city nodes should then be developed gradually to cover the whole country.

4.  The approximate cost for computers and associated equipment for the central node and for ten city nodes should be about Taka two crore (Taka 30 lacs + 10×15 lacs) and the cost for the equipment and other technical facilities for the gateway should be about Taka two crore.

5.  The technical assistance may be sought from the UNDP for setting up the network and the gateway for international links.

6.   Indigenous databases should be developed for online access through the BERNET.

This is a draft outline for setting up the BERNET. This draft outline needs careful evaluation before actually embarking on the project for setting up the BERNET.

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