Interview with José Luiz Ribeiro Filho, Director of Services and Solutions of RNP. January 2015

RNP, the Brazilian NREN, (Rede Nacional de Ensino e Pesquisa), plans, designs, deploys and operates a nationwide networking infrastructure under a contract with the Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI). Its objectives include connecting university, research institutes, hospitals, museums, and many other public Research and Education (R&E) institutions through its network infrastructure. RNP offering include connection for more than 800 points, of around 350 public institutions (universities and research institutes), through an advanced multi-gigabit national backbone, and more than 35 optical metropolitan area networks. RNP also offers advanced services on top of this network, potentially benefiting more than 3.5 million users. Partnerships with research institutions, business and other world-leading NRENs are central to advancing the network and offering new services and products

To keep up with a growing demand from it’s network of users RNP has turned to a hybrid, community and federated cloud to supply its services. The hybrid model allows RNP to act as a public (commercial) contract broker for “low risk” services, such as student e-mail, document sharing, etc. Through the community model, universities and research institutes can offer their own data centre infrastructure either fully or partially, to the national cloud. Besides this, RNP is comparing public/commercial cloud services, business models, pricing and contract clauses so that they can start a pilot which will assess the broker role, as planned for the hybrid model.

We spoke to José Luiz Ribeiro Filho who is Director of Services and Solutions RNP to find out more about this choice.

What conditions are required to create a hybrid cloud model where commercial (private) and public cloud providers can both benefit and play a role in a cloud based market of services?

"My answer refers only to our local market since we have a quite distinct situation here. RNP operates the services offered to the academic community under a contract with the ministries of Education, of Science, Technology and Innovation, of Heath and of Culture. A new law from the federal government defines the rules for how public institutions such as public universities and research institutes can contract IT services. The cloud providers are willing to adapt their business models in order to offer services in compliance with this law, and some of them see RNP as a strategic partner to accomplish this goal. On the other side of this are the IT managers from universities. They are looking at this model (hybrid, community and federated) as an opportunity to optimize their infrastructure, technical resources and investments. At the same time the reliability and security for their local services increase. In addition, RNP’s cloud will provide them with nationwide services.   The model also considers the use of private collocation and hosting facilities, not only the cloud services. This way a private provider can start with data center services and, as needed, take over the administration of our cloud platforms or adapt theirs to our specifications."

The “community” aspect of RNP cloud computing strategy entails a model where universities and research institutes offer their infrastructure in exchange for ready-to-use services. Can you explain better the business model behind this?

"The idea here is to make better use of the resources of universities. However, we do this without restricting, limiting or imposing anything but the middleware needed to integrate their infrastructure to ours, and a basic acceptable use policy which is discussed with that community. By doing this, we expect that universities can offer some of their available IT infrastructure, including local operation services, in exchange for a pool of nationwide services, including IAAS, SAAS and PAAS offered and coordinated by RNP Cloud Services.

However, if an institution doesn’t have the resources to exchange, it can also buy our cloud services. We are then able to duly share the income with our partners by improving their infrastructures and services."

Looking globally, how can European or Latin American universities and research institutes become part of RNP’s community model?

"Before we start looking beyond Brazil we first need to validate and deploy our model. Nevertheless, I don’t see any major difficulties in extending this model to international partners, provided they agree with the community rules. One important point in this case could be limitations imposed by international telecommunications infrastructure between Brazil and other countries. This could represent a significant cost depending on the amount of traffic involved in the integration of our clouds. Unfortunately, telecommunications costs are still one of the major barriers in countries like Brazil. This in turn impacts on our ability to increase  international collaboration projects."

What role do you envisage for SMEs (Brazilian, European or worldwide), start-ups and new small cloud service providers in the public-private hybrid cloud model?

"We all know that startups are the oxygen of the innovation in a broad sense. This is  especially so in the IT market, where we see new applications appearing every day. The facilities and opportunities offered by cloud services are fuelling even further the SMEs as emerging enterprises, pushing them into a global market which is responsible for an increasing share of the total income of several nations. Because of this, there are public policies in these countries that seek to provide a suitable environment for startups and SMEs to flourish, helping them grow faster and enter their markets. These public policies in Brazil are still in their early stages but are evolving. I see a great opportunity to extend our community model to include startups, SMEs and small cloud service providers, creating an ecosystem. This ecosystem that starts with basic research at universities and research institutes can foster the development of these ideas into applications, products and services through an innovation chain supported by IT infrastructure and services like the hybrid, community and federated cloud."


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