What is a Research and Education Network?

I recently attended a technical conference and it seemed most people have not heard of Research and Education Network (REN) organizations. I am an OpenStack cloud system administrator at Cybera, a non-profit provincial REN serving Alberta-based academics, researchers, non-profits and small to medium sized organizations. We also have other projects serving other Canadian users, depending on where the project funding is from. Most of our funding is from Government of Alberta and other Canadian government organizations.

I primarily support our cloud resources. The Rapid Access Cloud (RAC) provides free cloud computing resources for any Alberta resident. Most of our users are University of Alberta and University of Calgary students and faculty. We also have some startups and hobbyists that prototype on our cloud. One project I am working on now is putting together example code and documentation for cloud independent development for our users. The purpose is to provide guidance on how to use configuration management and other software tools to provision a cluster of containers and migrate between multiple public clouds (AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure).

You can read more about RENs at the Wikipedia page. Internet2 and ESnet are U.S.-based NRENs. SURFnet is a prolific REN in the Netherlands, and my teammates referred to the SURFnet open source repos when building a confederated identity and access management (IAM) service for Alberta K-12 schools.