The EU Host builds on the previous work of the IBC Lab, which was created in 1992 to disseminate RACE achievements in the context of the exploitation of results. In co-operation with several projects a showroom was set up to display advanced communication services to the staff of the EU institutions, members of the RACE/ACTS management committee and the general public. Its most relevant general public demonstrations have included participation in CeBit, Eurie 93 in Brussels (the launch of Euro-ISDN in Europe), SMAU'94 in Turin and the ACTS Proposers' Day and National Hosts Conference (Madrid, October 1994).
The services demonstrated by the IBC Lab have been mainly based on ISDN, POTS and the Internet. As time passed it become obvious that a migration to ATM based services would be the logical evolutionary step as the IBC Lab's original services such as ISDN, desk-top video conferencing and co-operative work were becoming generally available commercially. The ACTS electronic tendering action in 1995 (see section 5.1) provided the opportunity to obtain ATM access to our premises and to support this migration.
When the National Hosts concept developed, it become clear that, as implementation is becoming the main strategic action line in ACTS, the European Commission could not be kept separate from this evolution but should have an active part in it. This was indeed reinforced by the decisions of the European Councils of Corfu (June 1994) and Essen (December 1994) concerning the implementation of the Information Society. For DG XIII/B and ACTS this resulted in the launch of the EU Host, which could already benefit from the IBC Lab existing communications facilities and experience.
The EU Host has, nevertheless, a much wider scope than the IBC Lab activities. Instead of having bilateral co-operation with certain projects to install and demonstrate their results, the EU Host aims to participate in the deployment of common advanced services to support the networking of the National Hosts and the information window concept outlined in the ACTS workplan. It is hoped that these services can be the basis of an Electronic Public Service for ACTS permitting to support in a more effective way a bi-directional information flow between the ACTS constituency and the European Commission.
In 1995 the most relevant actions supported by the EU Host facilities were the ACTS 1995 electronic tendering and the participation in the RACE Summer School ABC'95. These were just two examples of activities which the EU Host can support in the future. The electronic tendering action relates directly with the provision of an Electronic Public Service to support innovative ways of managing the programme through advanced communications. The participation in ABC'95 was an example of possible future actions supporting the Information window concept. These two actions are described in detail below.
The electronic tendering related with the ACTS Call for Proposals, which expired on March 15, provided a practical opportunity to install at DG XIII/B's premises in Avenue de Beaulieu an access to the trans-European ATM pilot. This was the first time the Commission through DG XIII/B had set up the means to perform an electronic evaluation. Proposers were encouraged to submit their proposals via networks. For that purpose several FTP servers were established in Europe and software to encrypt, digitally sign and transmit the proposals were provided to the proposers. Most of the FTP servers were connected to the Euro-ATM pilot. During the afternoon and the evening of the closing date (15th March) the ACTS proposals were downloaded to our premises. From a total of 333 proposals, 189 were submitted via networks, out of these only 36 were transferred using the Internet while the others used the Euro-ATM pilot. For the evaluation period itself a LAN was temporarily installed in the hotel where the evaluation was taking place to make all the proposals accessible electronically to evaluators. The evaluation forms were filled in electronically and digitally signed by the evaluators concerned.
The access configuration used to download the ACTS proposal comprised a Cisco router providing access to the ATM pilot at 34 MBit/s. Virtual paths of 4 and 2 Mbit/s were reserved for the operation. To transfer the files TCP/IP over ATM used two protocol stacks: mapping of IP into AAL5 and mapping of IP into the SMDS service on top of AAL3/4.
During the last week of June 1995, the EU Host participated as a subsidiary site in the third International Summer School on Advanced Broadband Communications (ABC'95) organised by the RACE projects BRAIN and IBER.
The school was distributed across thirteen geographically distinct sites, gathering more than three hundred participants from all over Europe. It constituted a unique event combining a thorough presentation of advanced broadband communications, including demonstrations of its use and applications. It included tutorials, in-depth lectures, panels and demonstrations of results achieved within R&D projects.
The EU Host site facilities permitted the staff from the EU institutions, and other interested parties based in Brussels, to participate in presentations from Aveiro, Madrid and Naples and to pose questions to the speakers. The distributed event was supported by a multimedia CSCW (Computer Supported Co-operative Work) tele-training application (ISABEL) used to link the lecture rooms of the different physical sites into a unique "virtual lecture room" such that lecturers and participants lost the sense of physical separation and worked together with full interaction.
The following sites were joined by the ABC '95 Summer School:
|Madrid, Spain (2 sites)||(Telefónica I&D \ ETSI Telecomunicacion, UPM)|
|Aveiro, Portugal||(Portugal Telecom\CET\Un. of Aveiro )|
|Naples, Italy||(CRIAI\Un. of Naples)|
|Bern, Switzerland||(ASCOM \ Un. of Bern )|
|Linz, Austria||(Un. of Linz)|
|Leidschendam, Netherlands||(KPN Research )|
|Brussels, Belgium||(European Union Host, DG XIII/B - ACO)|
|Ipswich, UK||(BT Laboratories)|
|Limerick, Ireland||(Un. of Limerick)|
|Chemnitz, Germany||(Tech. Un. of Chemnitz)|
The pan-European ATM trial also played a key role in the organisation and success of this event by providing the necessary communication infrastructure for the interconnection of National Hosts. The ISABEL tele-training application required virtual paths of 6 MBit/s on the ATM pilot. In addition the 2 MBit/s constant bit rate service was used to link all the sites, twelve in total, in multi-point video conference to act as a back up of the ISABEL application.
All the operations required a complex collaboration between the participants involved and the network operators involved with the ATM pilot network. Without the help and the support of the projects it would have been impossible for the EU Host to achieve the installation of the ATM services mentioned above, especially when considering that previous experience with ATM was non-existent. This showed that it is possible in the future to expect close co-operation with relevant projects to equip the EU Host with advanced broadband services. In addition to the support of IBER and BRAIN, Belgian companies and other services of the Commission also supported the event by providing temporarily some equipment required to support the complex installation deployed for the event. Part of this equipment, whose purchase is included in this workplan, includes among others boards for the SUN workstation, ATM access equipment, audio-visual equipment (e.g. speakers, amplifiers, audio mixers), etc.
In November the EU host participated in the IDC '95 First International Distributed Conference on High Performance Networking for Teleteaching. This took place at Madeira-Portugal as main centre with Madrid, Sophia Antipolis and Brussels (EU Host) as remote distributed centres.
After the successful participation in the ABC '95 Summer School, this was the second time the EU Host remotely participated in a conference, this time using the ISABEL (used in the ABC '95) and the BETEUS applications running on 6MBit/s virtual paths of the ATM Pilot.
The conference had lectures from Madeira and a roundtable distributed panel involving all sites. Each remote site (including the EU Host) had full interactive possibilities, for example, asking the speakers questions using the co-operative working advanced communications facilities provided by the ISABEL and BETEUS applications.