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The other connectivity takes off

The other connectivity takes off

Those who need guaranteed speed and high performance have always not benefited from traditional infrastructures but rely on companies that provide them with the secure and powerful connectivity they need. GARR does this, provides network and connectivity services for self-employed user communities. GARR is therefore an association and not a service provider, these are users who provide themselves connectivity possibly in an advanced way beyond traditional service providers. This is especially true in the research field since GARR is the only network that connects to the internet2 without going through commercial providers therefore, its users are, for example, universities, research institutions, communities that provide education or that deal with cultural heritage, medicine, humanities.
And precisely to encourage the application of technologies that exploit advanced connectivity, GARR has created Network Humanitatis, a three-day high profile, which aims to bring together humanists and technicians, showing the first what technology can do for their sciences.
He was present at the conference Claudio Allocchio manager of application services for GARR, with whom Punto Informatico had the opportunity to investigate these topics.

Punto Informatico: What is the meaning of Network Humanitatis?
Claudio Allocchio: It is a challenge to ourselves, to make the humanistic part of the sciences and the community interact, so as not always to limit ourselves to traditional scientific figures. We want to bring the infrastructure to those who don’t know how to use it or know it but don’t know how to interact with us because we don’t know each other.
For example, some DAMS of large Italian cities in addition to having the infrastructure for the lessons are connected to the network for Gigabit and Gigabit but do not know how to use them. This is because there is a lack of computer culture in the professors of classical subjects.

PI: But where are your infrastructures? What can they support and offer?
CA: The GARR network has an infrastructure that is making a decisive leap in quality, we are moving from circuits and rented objects to buying optical fibers ourselves and lighting them ourselves, thus becoming owners of the infrastructure. This clearly allows us to do things that we could not do before, even from an economic point of view.
For example, for this conference we brought several gigabit connectivity to this theater and it was necessary to take a fiber used to make a circuit, turn it off and light it ourselves. Thus we have obtained n circuits at various gigabits at no cost because once purchased the devices are then owned.

PI: Things that can also be applied to more traditional users?
CA: We are trying to bring this type of technology to the backbone and then to the user’s home, for example by promoting the development of MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) in which various GARR users get together and buy a fiber that, in addition to being able to use it as a last mile, it can also be used to make conversation with each other.

PI: What potential are we talking about?
CA: The basic backbone goes to multiples of gigabits, and we’re going to be moving to multiples of tens of gigabits shortly. Our idea, however, is to bring them bidirectionally to users, therefore differently from how ISPs do, because our users share more than downloading. This is why traditional ADSL models cannot work for us.

PI: Well, what are the main applications of this infrastructure?
CA: The traditional part is e-learning, for example today there is a conference part that shows how e-learning needs feedback to understand how the student learns, then there is all the scientific communication part that it is very important, but we also want to bring it to those users who are scared of traditional interfaces, creating a human interface to the network system that is different from the classic PC, screen and keyboard.

PI: One thing that many are trying to do …
CA: Yes, but there is a technological aspect that makes this objective difficult to achieve, because you have to interact with the human being and his senses, also involving the detection of the human body in space (i.e. a human interface taken to the extreme ).

PI: We have been hearing about applications of this type for a long time, but how much demand is there in practice?
CA: We also thought they were niche, something reserved for a few demos and a small audience, but for this conference we have received 40 contributions from users. From here we understood that the demand is greater than we think. Then it is difficult to answer because we often interface with people who do not have a high technological culture, but perhaps have good ideas that can be developed. Such as the problem of latency, which is useful in many applications.

PI: Starting from this problem, where do you want to go?
CA: We are still trying to have the huge amount of data of the network available in real time to do on demand the reconstruction of an ancient archaeological site, not only presenting the classic visual data, but also having data on the weather, the climate, what crops grew on the fields etc. etc. And then maybe it happens (as it happened) to discover that a village in Phenicia was not destroyed by an invasion as previously thought, but by the fact that an eruption of Etna generated a tsunami that razed everything to the ground. This has been achieved by putting together different databases through a computer grid, discovering a wrong theory and correcting it.

PI: If I’m not mistaken, these are mostly effective applications of things that have been said for a long time. So the ideas are always the same but only now can we put them into practice?
CA: Right. Suffice it to say that telecontiguity was born in 1800, when they imagined that they were touching each other in some way at prohibitive distances. And today we are almost there.

PI: Another example. For the Culture @ Garr project you focus a lot on audio / video streaming, why use a technology that is still different from all the others such as DVTS?
CA: For us, the advantage of DVTS is that unlike other transmission technologies it does not compress data and therefore greatly reduces latency, which is important in communication and interaction between humans.

PI: What power does it take to handle such an uncompressed transmission?
CA: The transmission is on UDP protocol with a fixed streaming without compression, without a VPN, but with our infrastructures. Let’s say that with a shared 100MB it is already fine.

PI: What about connectivity in hard to reach areas?
CA: Let’s think about that too, it’s a field that we experience especially with medical applications. From the part already seen on telemonitoring and controls on the patient’s environment or on the advice of a remote doctor (perhaps from the helicopter before you arrive at the scene of an accident), up to the demos on robots and mannequins of surgical operations. The idea is that with certain latency and certain delay it is also possible to operate the patient remotely, if there is no one on site able to intervene (in this then there is the whole part of managing the privacy of customers for the consultation which is very thorny). And then you need a nice network to bring in maximum resolution and quickly very high resolution images to be able to see all the details of a patient’s status.

PI: It will take years to see such a thing applied in everyday life!
CA: At least 5 years in my opinion.

PI: For the technical application, but then how many doctors will actually want to do a remote operation when it is possible?
CA: This is a big problem but it depends on the age of the doctor. In Friuli already 5 years ago it was decided that all doctors had to have PCs with ADSL in the clinic. Then those who are 60 use the PC for recipes and that’s it, but someone of my age is already computerizing little by little.

PI: But whoever makes the decisions is always of a certain age
CA: Right. In this as in other areas there are 3 main categories of users. Decision makers, people who still use their phones and watch Skype with suspicion; those in the middle, who use these tools and also try to do something more, fighting with the former to make them make certain decisions; and then those of tomorrow, who do not want to know anything about the telephone but not even about classic videoconferencing and want to use mobile phones and peer to peer.

curated by Gabriele Niola