The main goal of the technical work in the A.C.T.S. Bourbon (BrOadband Urban Rural Based Open Networks) project has been to specify, set up and run individual testbeds in each participating country for the support of real SME field trials.
This work has been done in several testbeds and (pre)commercial heterogeneous broadband ATM/IP and narrowband ISDN environments in Ireland, Finland, France, Austria, Germany, Scotland, Italy, Greece and North Holland.
To achieve this, the work has included several phases: network architecture planning, network implementation and network operation and development. The focus in Bourbon is in trialling broadband network technology, whilst keeping in mind the scalability and cost benefit issues.
The scalability in this context means several things: oA broadband core network should support several access types (ISDN, xDSL, optical) with or without ATM link level protocol. oBroadband access services will often be offered to users in local broadband networks, which have gateways to other networks, e.g., wide area IP networks. oLarge-scale changes should not be done at the user's (SME's) network while changing to broadband. This is in most cases achieved by keeping to Ethernet LAN technology. oIP connectivity should be the requirement for the network level connections oATM is used in most cases in the wide area backbone network only.
In some cases it is viable to use ATM at the subscriber access point e.g. ATM over xDSL. It is rare that ATM services would be used in the SME premises e.g. native ATM service or ATM LANE. Network Infrastructures Since the services and the applications offered to SMEs vary in each Bourbon testbed, the network technology used varies also. Some similarities can however be defined.
The following figure (Figure 1) presents the general scalable broadband network architecture built up from each testbed's implementations. This architecture is well suited also for commercial implementations, the case in the Finnish Testbed being one example.
Figure 1. BOURBON trials networks configurations Applications on trial
The participating SME's in the BOURBON project were stategically chosen from industries that would have a requirement for broadband services. For example, in Finland, the focus of Bourbon field trials is in the graphical industry in which some of the most innovative companies fall and also in the category of new media industry. Graphical industry companies have a high demand for broadband services and therefore have shown interest to this project. In addition, there is an engineering company involved. With the results of Bourbon trials, the users are developing new working methods and obtaining information for business process reengineering. Understanding the meaning of digital media, telecommunication and IT in the production chain and business processes, has encouraged the users to get networked.
Another example of an industry sector involved in BOURBON include SMEs in Ireland involved in the manufacture of injection moulds for the plastic and die-cast industries and In-house services which include:software design, design specification and drawings, on-site design on a full 3D CAD/CAM system, tool manufacture, tool tryout, and metrology on a Coordinating Measuring Machine (CMM) in a temperature controlled environment.
The applications can be broken down into the following categories:
Remote Teleworking - A number of the testbeds are trialling xDSL connections for remote teleworking.
Value-added services such as image banking
BOURBON Trial Sites
A brief synopsis of the situations in all of the ATM and ISDN testbeds can be found below.
As Project Co-ordinator and Irish Trial Co-ordinator, LAKE Communications have forged a successful alliance and have obtained excellent support from Telecom Eireann through their role in the ACTS JAMES project to conduct an ADSL/ATM interworking trial in Sligo using the Telecom Eireann copper infrastructure. The users of the BOURBON ADSL/ATM trial in Sligo are in the toolmaking, CAD/CAM designers who are designing mouldings for engineering companies and transfer the designs and work proactively with customers. STET Engineering, for example, an injection mould company, has two key designers who work with Elon Design and TIRAC, CAD/CAM design companies, and the ability to transfer designs and files on a real time basis has made collaborative working a reality. Tecnocad is a CAD/CAM software design company involved as a BOURBON user. Writing of CAD/CAM software for companies like AutoCad requires the ability to transfer designs on a real-time basis to clients in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. The high speed connectivity afforded by ADSL in the BOURBON trial also enables them to carry out remote teleworking in real time which enables quicker interaction with their clients in different time zones. An interconnection trial between Ireland and Finland using VSAT technology is about to commence. The users involved in the satellite trials are in the publishing and image setting sectors.
The status of the Finnish Testbed is the following: Users are conducting their own application trials and developing their own internal networks. Many of the users are connected either to ISDN or the router network provided by the Helsinki Telephone Corporation (HPY) and other Finnet Group Telcos. Email, file transfer and telephony are the most popular services for corporate networking. Some users are connected to the broadband IP and ATM based network services provided by HPY and other Finnet Group PNOs. In addition to the 'narrowband Internet based services', these users are trialling fast file transfer, remote working and new applications like IP based CSCW tools.
An ATM platform has been made available by France Telecom for the project. The BOURBON project has become an opportunity for the Telecom Operator to look for a more adaptable offer for SMEs. The trial is based on ADSL access to the ATM backbone network. BOURBON and IDATE, the French Test bed coordinator, have played a key-role for the emergence of this solution in France.
The project partner in the German testbed is also the Public Network Operator Deutsche Telecom Berkom and in this regard their practical experiments and trials have all used Public Network Operator links. SIEMENS became a sponsoring partner providing ATM Multimedia PCs for tests at the Berlin-Buch Campus within the ATM Trial planned first half 1998.
Athens Technology Centre (ATC), the Greek testbed co-ordinator, has been in the position to start the practical experiments and demonstration trials in the testbed locations. All the necessary field trials are supported by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) which is the Public Network Operator. OTE provided the Greek Test bed with the appropriate ISDN infrastructure so as to have successful demonstration tests. The SMEs involved in the field trials are publishing organisations.
The main goals of the Italian Test Bed are the experimentation of new working methods able to improve both the business processes (as a support to the re-engineering) and the quality of the every day working practices. The users are connected to ISDN via connections provided by ONION srl, which is connected to the network via communication links provided by the Public Network Operator Telecom Italia. Electronic mail, file transfer, telephony and especially video-conference based services are the most popular services by those users.
The BOURBON participants in Fife, Scotland have developed a service that is encouraging businesses to take advantage of the telematics available, bringing together information and services that they need on a day to day basis, to run an effective business. This includes access to workplace training, videotelephony/conferencing, email, business to business services, access to world markets etc. As businesses become more aware of the potential of telematics the demands for bandwidth increase and makes the commercialisation more effective. The software developed in the Scottish test bed for the BOURBON project is now being used across three projects in Fife and several service providers and projects are also using the infrastructure. This will enable the work carried out in the project to continue after the project with the ability to start charging for the services to a stage where they could be cost effective. During the evaluation of the project the costings of services will be identified.
The BOURBON project has identified that the ability to provide traditional SMEs and businesses in rural and urban areas throughout Europe with high speed broadband scalable networks is a reality that must be embraced. Corporate and public organizations typically have shown the first interest in using new broadband-based network services, like ATM and frame relay. This is very natural because they often already have been actively using ICT for their core business and internal communication. Therefore they are prepared to invest in telecommunications.
They also typically have skilled personnel as 'network managers' who take care of the technical LAN and WAN problems, network planning and contacts with network and service operators and vendors. The reasons for upgrading the network may have resulted from the needs of cutting communications costs, improving the QOS, growth of the company or implementing new applications.
SMEs have a much larger hurdle to cross when utilizing ICT and broadband technology than corporates. This is mainly because they often don't have the same facilities or requirements as corporates. There is however an undergoing change from an industrial society to the information society in which SMEs play a very important role. Information society technologies increasingly pervade all industrial and societal activities and are accelerating the globalization of both economies, in particular by providing SMEs with affordable access to the global marketplace and societies. Several existing and future European research projects and programs have listed the importance of increasing the competitiveness of SMEs as one of the most important objectives.
BOURBON is a project that needs time to work properly mainly because it requires the involvement of the telecom operators in all of the testbeds and in some instances the operator is not a direct partner or subcontractor of the project. Due to this, the project is very dependent on the decisions of the telecom operators to adapt it's ATM offering to SMEs. In all cases, this has involved discussions with the Telecom operator at the local level and central level which has taken a considerable amount of time and effort. The fact that BOURBON is a project supported by the European Commission has played a key-role in raising the importance of these discussions with the telecom operators, especially with the participants in the ACTS JAMES project, who have been very supportive of the BOURBON project.
The A.C.T.S. BOURBON project was profiled in the September 1998 edition of Communications Today, a leading national Irish Telecommunications magazine.
For further information please contact Jim Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.orgTaken from Bulletin No. 9