Questions and Discussion on the Moscow backbone

Q.: I am just a user from the West, and I think you are loosing a good chance to organize the Internet exchange point In Moscow as a part of world Internet system. You are loosing the possibilities which can be open by Internet.

A. (N.Repin): We have some problems with Internet connection now, but we really have it. In the future we will discuss how to do this correctly. It will be an item of our discussions with international organizations.

Rob Blokzijl: I cannot satisfy my users because in your scheme I cannot go to Kurchatov Institute, I cannot go to the Relcom customers. And that is the major part of my scientific traffic today.

A.: I hope that the North part of the Backbone will be also finished and technically it will be no problem to make connections to Relcom users. It will be only political problem which, I think, is discussible.

Rob Blokzijl: True political-free, neutral Internet exchange point in Moscow could have been implemented with the same technology. My question is: why not?

A.: This is a political question, it needs to be negotiated with commercial users, with the service providers on the Backbone. This job must be done.

Peter Knight: We just heard of `Russian University Network, of 2 Mb fiber optic line St.Petersburg - Helsinki and St.Petersburg - Moscow, of satellite lines constructed embracing major centers in Russia. Since MSU is part of RUNNet and your Backbone is there a chance to connect all these lines to your Backbone?

A.: Line through St.Petersburg may be a good terrestrial connection to Western networks. This is very attractive, but who will pay for this channel?

Rob Blokzijl: On future wishes to have terrestrial international connection. I am still coming back to my early questions. First. fundamental problem. How can I explane to my users today (I am working in Dutch National Institute for Nuclear Physics) that if they work together with Kurchatov Institute they have round-trip time in network 30 msec, but whenn they work together with your institute they have 600 msec round-trip time. My users say "It is all Moscow". It is coming back to fact that your Backboneis not the Moscow Internet Exchange facility as it could have been. This is difficult for us in Internet interacting to world to understand.

A.: This connection is not yet finished and cable is not installed. When it will be finished the situation will be unified.

Vladislav Shirikov (Dubna): We had plans for line to Moscow and connection to the Backbone at M9 (switcher point). It was included into Backbone as one of the nodes. Now it is not in your South Backbone. I understand that problem is due to equipment there which belong to Relcom. But it should be done something. To duplicate the equipment by "non-commercial" or some other solution should be found. Any way, we expect new delay and this is very unfortunate for Dubna plans.

After the meeting of RELARN Coordination Board with representatives of ISF we had an impression that 'commercial - non-commercial" controversy may be solved.

A.: We are not responsible for not our nodes. From our side we are open for cooperation and we would like to help to such institutions as Dubna to establish right connectivity. How it can be done technically? We have no node on M9, we are not admitted to.

Hans Frese: I am from DESY, the other side of MSU-DESY link. As one of supplier of external connectivity, I would like to be able to use Backbone in such a fashion that there is no need going to years of discussion before one can establish connection to the point one needs, but to be able to use it as exchange point where can be peer agreement between the different points of the network to reach any other point. As far as the service of keeping routers supply, the problem who transmit seconds to whom is a question of the two parties involved. This would facilitate putting other external links into the Backbone, till all various Internet providers inside Moscow and beyond could be properly connected.

So, you mention in your talk of two alternatives. One with the routing plan you have showed and the other was to have the network run as the bridging device where you have peer to peer communication. And I am strongly advocating the second choice. Could you explain to me how you might reach a decision like this or it is locked forever?

A.: We try to reach a joined decision and now it is under negotiating. I hope that in several weeks we make a final decision.

Lev Shchur: I don't understand anything in this South-North confrontation. But, as the end user, I would like to ask, is there any plan and resources for linkage those like me to the Backbone?

A.: The problem is important and should be solved. You can apply for some grant to ISF or RFFR. Some institutes connected to the Backbone are helping others for linkage using their own resources.

Alexey Platonov: A lot was said on South-North joint, South-North war. I would like to stress that there is no war, the facility, sure, will be finished. As we have installed the South part we will install the North part. There is, of cause, a problem on delivery of equipment. As ISF gave up to supply "North territory" we ought to look for other funding sources. I am very sorry that the whole half of this year was lost in a political struggle, which non political man, as myself, is not able to understand. Due to this plays the work was strongly drown back.

A. Mendkovich: I think that a lot of confusions are generated by the fact that a clear and definite plan for future work on the Backbone is absent. My second remark is on M9 node. The Backbone should be connected with M9 and I see no problem. M9 is not belong to anybody. So, the equipment of any organization may be set up there, particular that from Dubna. There certainly will be financial problem, it will cost money, but I do not see any organizational problems.

A. Belyaeva: I have one remark and one suggestion. Our International Laboratory VEGA supports networking of 80 humanitarian institutions. Among them almost all humanitarian institutes in Academy of Science and other institutes in the same area. They are users of different networks: SovAm, Relcom, Glasnet and FREEnet. We are follow with attention on the Backbone project and informed our institutes of project development. They were very excited and were eager to make preparations for the future linkage to the Backbone. But now they are misled, they have no information, don't know where to find answers to their questions. I ask you to remember of your future users, give them information even when you know that it is not the final one and will be changed in a future. Keep them in your area of concern.

Steve Goldstein: I hope if your backbone can ever be united into one backbone again, and somebody makes a nice slice between the two halves, that won't appear as in a cartoon has appeared in our press sometimes about the joining of the two parts of our railroad that when they went to join them the track was like this:

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not like this:

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Anyway, Nikolai, we make you hard. I think you probably deserve to sit down and thank you very much for your courage and coming before us.

Spartak, did you want to say something?

Spartak Belyaev: I believe we must learn lessons from what happened. I mean that our present situation is quite typical and may represent situation in other regions and other states. Then, maybe others will learn from our mistakes and will not make their own.

Why the Moscow Backbone was selected as the first priority in RELARN proposal? Lack of connectivity was, and still is, our major problem and necessity. An effective step is linkage between all network providers serving research and educational (R&E) institutions. And Moscow is just the place where it can be done in a simple and effective way.

So, networks interconnectivity considered to be the main objective, the first priority for Backbone design. The rout of the Backbone was set through main nodes of all networks serving R&E institutions, no matter whether they are commercial or noncommercial. Possible legal requirements (due to mixed traffic, share of operational cost, etc.) had been discussed many times with our western colleges including experts of ISF. Total connectivity in this scheme was understood as possibility for users of any network to be linked to Backbone in any node. As for international lines, the Backbone should play a role of Internet exchange facility.

The Backbone planned to be single operational unit with separate management, although its physical nodes (routers, servers, etc.) may be hosted (without property rights) inside the institutions linked to the backbone. So, the property of Backbone does not interfere with the property of its node hosts (which might be state's or private).

All these ideas were in the first RELARN Proposal. It was submitted to ISF in December 1992 and was accepted. All technical, all organizational and legal questions were discussed with experts. All of the matters were scrutinized and we cannot say that many changes have been introduced.

The policy of the ISF was changed indeed. And nothing else. We lost almost a year in endless discussions and the only exit was found to split Backbone into two parts, because ISF agreed to finance only the South part which are "commercial-free" (and which might be a good local academic net, but will not provide connectivity).

Still I hope, we'll overcome all difficulties and I believe the Northern and Southern parts will find the ways how to connect each other by a "golden spike" and fuse into real Moscow Backbone. The whole story reminds me of an English saying which reads that wife helps her husband to overcome all the difficulties which he would not have if not married.

Andrey Mendkovich: I have a little different impression. I think, we are in a situation which developed over time by international practice. Any foundation, ISF or RFFR, has real regulations. I cannot use the granted scientific equipment in such a way as to give this equipment to any profit-maker organization, and use it to make a profit. These are rules accepted universally. And, as far as I remember, those talks started about different subjects. Yes, we've got optical fiber, the foundation does not fine if commercial and noncommercial networks would jointly use this optic fiber. Inside this fiber we can have mixed professional and nonprofessional traffic. But the situation when the Foundation was purchasing equipment that will later used by profit-maker company. The profit-maker company is begging help from the foundation. Imagine the picture: a prosperous company, dynamic company, just a model in communication area, asks for router to set up in its end of the fiber optic line. This sounds strange to me because today even an academic institute can afford to buy a rooter. It seems really strange and I think journalists would be happy when they were given a chance to ask questions, and there would be a lot of frustration among noncommercial organizations, because we all realize budget for the project and if some money spent for purchase equipment that goes to commercial organizations than the fundamental research instituting who are the customers of the foundation will not receive this money. I don't blame anyone but the situation is such that something has not been well explained from the very start. Thank you.

Alexey Platonov: We went too deep into details which is leading us away from the essence. We have a lot of legends in our heads now. Even new ones are being created. They say there were no project, no concept, no something else. I am to say that all was there: project, concept. The concept was very simple. Even if there were no foundation this system would have to be built on state budget. And the future owner of the system (both routers and optic fiber) should be a state organization. (Rosniiros was considered as one of alternatives). Then there was a scheme of usage. To save time, I shall not go into details. But the question of property was solved just from the start. Service provider was decided to have no right for usage of the hosted router by his will. The router belong to the state organization, responsible for the Backbone. All these simple and clear principles were formulated just from the beginning.

As for the legend of rich "Company" which steels router from poor institutes, the truth is that "the Company" invested into Backbone 80 000 USD at the time when all works at the Backbone were near complete stop with cancelation of the contract with constructor. By the way, just this investment was a pretext for the revision of the project we are discussing.

Lev Shchur: I've got a small comment. When we speak on the conflict that occurred in Spring of this year, only ISF was mentioned. I'd like to remind you that in Spring of this year an agreement, declaration of intent, was signed by ISF, RFFR and Ministry of Science. And the reason was that lawyers of RFFR noticed that last year investment of 60 mln roubles in such a structure contradicts the Charter of Foundation. And lawyers started to disclose this mistake.

Marat Guriev: The discussion we have here shows that there are certain contradictions, there are different viewpoints. But when one here in Russia makes reference to laws I may say follows. We are learning now about the shadow economy which accounts for, probably, 45% of the legal economy of the country, They are breaking laws for bad things. I think we need to have the courage to break laws for good things and not to be afraid. I work in the administration of the President but nevertheless I ask you not to refer to lawyers when you want to stop real things in telecommunication area. It looks very suspicious for the normal Russian citizen today. Let us address any problem calmly and quietly and emphasize the essence.

Steve Goldstein: I think it was an appropriate remark now to stop this particular conversation.

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