Networking in Russia
Report on evening discussion
Moderators: M.Guriev and S.Belyaev
Chairman: Steve Goldstein
Steve Goldstein: I'd like to suggest that we hear the report from one person. Then after that I'd like to invite anybody who feels that he likes to, a group of people perhaps, to come on front and take questions from the orients or express their own opinions if they like. Because we are not expecting just a single opinion on which people react to the results of this meeting. Remember, we were first talking about this meeting as 'making a word, only', but peace seems to have followed from the word; things certainly have evolved quite far over a very short time.
Marat Guriev: It is not so easy to report on all that was discussed yesterday. But general conclusion was that it is possible to work together. I think we are able to sign an umbrella agreement which will enable to combine efforts of all networking in Russia. Some projects in Russia were developed under the thesis that network should be non-commercial. Andrey Mendkovich has developed rather large network using this idea. But if he will mix his traffic with commercial one I don't think he will loose anything. The technical problems of how to mix or divide the traffics can be discussed and resolved under umbrella agreement. Unfortunately, in past period members of networking community in Russia spent a lot of energy for opposing each other. I hope that just this kind of energy will be saved in the near future. Till now our Ministry of Communications practically did not invest money in network development. This is reserve which may be used.
The general outcome is the following. To summarize, majority is ready for coordinated work, and corresponding umbrella agreement between service providers can appear in a few months. I'd like to thank organizers of this workshop. It made our contradictions evident. They were to some extend disclosed in brilliant document of Dr.Cook where we obtained a side view of our situation. Now I believe academician Belyaev will add something.
Spartak Belyaev: I'd like to summarize questions and problems discussed yesterday and to mention some specific suggestions made.
- We understand that grants from all kinds of international foundations are extremely important for us and the questions of taxations and proper relation with tax and custom agencies certainly need a legislative solution.
- Among legal problems one more was mentioned. In Russia usage of nets, say, optical fiber or microwave, needs licenses. So, when independent, non-governmental, organization starts to build a networking line, even for noncommercial use, the question of obtaining licenses is a serious one, it is not legally resolved yet. We believe that nonspecialized company, institutions should have the right to build communication lines without licenses in case they are not used for making profit.
- Necessity of coordination among different networks and actively networking institutions was emphasized. Suggestion was put forward to set up some maybe permanent bodies where organizational as well as technical questions can be discussed and unrevealed. As good example the technical group was mentioned which was organized by the Rosniiros when technical design of the Backbone was under discussion. Certainly such a practice of assembling experts from different institutions for joint productive work needs to be restarted.
- All agree that major global or regional projects, like those we have heard on this workshop, should be thoroughly discussed in public.
Examples of such public discussions of projects we already have from this workshop, namely,
- on satellite lines ending at MSU;
- situation in Novosibirsk, where we see competition between different very serious global project but in no way coordinated with each other.
- When entering into Internet and exploring its potential our users need help and experience exchange. There was a proposition to set up special journal (or teleconference), better accessible in all networks.
- It was suggested to set up an independent users organization for exploration of service, technical and financial conditions in different networks by making tests, ratings and publishing results. Such consumor organizations started to operate in Russia very successively. Maybe it is just the time to start this for networking.
- We had hot discussion on the problem which is painful in Russia: commercial- non-commercial controversy. I think that this problem, although has some objective content, strongly enhanced by misunderstanding, vague definitions and neglect of reality. This question seems to be pure academic but is in fact very important. The whole effectiveness of the networking in Russia may to great extend depend on its decision.
My personal opinion is that the only criteria for choice of server provider should be quality and cost. Any additional "ideological" conditions would inevitably lead to a loss in efficiency. Unfortunately ideological arms are still in use. So, RFFR legally prohibited to use their grants on payment for "commercial" Relcom traffic. (Why not for buying computer from "commercial" firm?).
- With the improvement of communication to the West and between Russian regions, the problem of communication with our neighbours in FSU becomes more and more actual. We all are certainly in need of specific projects and financial sources for their design and implementation.
- I am fully agree with Guriev and Belyaev. I am here in two roles. I am provider for my users inside Dubna and I am a user for external networks. As user, I am for coordination of providers. The umbrella agreement may help them to agree on standards, routing-plans.Then we all will be winners.
- The workshop was very useful. I knew now what is existing, what is going on. We certainly will prepare a project for linkages to our member stats in FSU.
- We have well operated local network in Dubna. We have large experience and necessary infrastructure for seminars, schools, conferences. So, Dubna is a good place for workshops and training courses in networking. We are ready.
Andrey Mendkowich: My opinion is that there is no need for special bodies for coordination both on administrative and technical levels. The number of service providers is small and we can meet informally if there would be a need. We already have such a practice. I also do not see any problem in existence of several competing projects. It is general world practice. The only obstacle is the small number of professionals in networking in order to provide expertise. To our Western colleges I'd like to say that we had indeed many problems which sometimes were expressed as personal hostility. But it was a period similar to "wild capitalism" in Europe, baby illness. Unfortunately impression of all that still remains as typical for our networking. It was all changed. Our problems are very much the same as in Europe or USA. The only important difference is that we have less money.
Coming back to coordination I think that the best way is small professional seminars, say, twice a year.
Alexander Galitsky: Our technical organization is user and technology provider at the same time. To work with Internet is our life style. I want to make some additions to my yesterday talk.
- On the cost for "civilized" linkage to Internet. Till providers will not find a way to reduce the linkage cost to less then 100 USD per month for 64 Kbps line, there would be no real development of Internet, at least in Moscow. The cost 1000 USD per month which we have now is no solution at all. Though there is a technical means for price reduction already today. And I am happy that we succeeded to convince Relcom to go along this way. And the start is successful.
- For me commercial - non-commercial controversy seems quite odd. Today when very large investment is being made in development of IP networks by commercial organizations - by State Bank of Russia, by many commercial banks - when so many rich commercial institutions are switching to Internet protocol, just at that time organizations responsible for funding R&E networking refuse to find cooperation with commercial structures with capital uncomparably larger then all available foundation have and will have. The proper solution must be found.
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