SANReN (the network & the group)

Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)

DSI logoThe Department of Science and Innovation seeks to boost socio-economic development in South Africa through research and innovation. To achieve its goals, the Department provides leadership, an enabling environment and resources for science, technology and innovation. Through its Programmes (Administration; Technology Innovation; International Cooperation and Resources; Research Development and Support; and Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships) and several entities that work alongside it, the Department is accomplishing groundbreaking science and enhancing the well-being of all South Africans.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

CSIR logoThe CSIR is a scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisation in Africa. Constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1945 as a science council, the CSIR in South Africa performs multidisciplinary research and technological innovation with the aim of contributing to industrial development and improving the quality of life of people in South Africa – and increasingly on the wider continent. The CSIR’s main site is in Pretoria, while it is represented in other provinces of South Africa through regional offices.

The CSIR is committed to supporting innovation in South Africa to improve national competitiveness in the global economy. Science and technology services and solutions are provided in support of various stakeholders, and opportunities are identified where new technologies can be further developed and utilised in the private and public sectors for commercial and social benefit.

The CSIR’s Next Generation Enterprises and Institutions (NGEI) cluster is focused on the digitalised era to support effective service delivery; improve government transparency and accountability, as well as facilitate industrial and societal advancement.

The South African National Research Network (SANReN) – the network

The South African National Research Network (SANReN) is a high-speed network dedicated to science, research, education and innovation traffic and has been rolled-out in a phased manner since 2007.

The South African National Research Network (SANReN) – the group

The SANReN group is responsible for the design, acquisition and roll-out of national and international capacity for the SA NREN, as well as the development and incubation of advanced services.

It forms part of a comprehensive South African government approach to cyberinfrastructure, geared at ensuring the successful participation of South African researchers in the global knowledge production endeavour. SANReN is managed and implemented by the CSIR’s Next Generation Enterprises and Institutions cluster and is a key component of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS), alongside the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA).

In 2019/2020, progress has been made in the upgrade of the SANReN core national backbone to dark fibre, with an initial capacity of 100Gbps. At the end of March 2019, SANReN had connected 236 sites to the network. Science, research, education, and innovation entities are eligible for connection to the SANReN network. These include South African public universities, science/research councils, national facilities and institutions, academic hospitals and museums. There is capacity on four undersea cables, which connect the network to the rest of the world. The Total Available Broadband Capacity (TABC) on the network is 3557Gbps, as at 31 March 2019.

At the end of 2019, SANReN hosted its third Cyber Security Challenge (CSC) student competition at the CHPC National Conference 2019. The purpose of the competition is to stimulate interest in cybersecurity in the field of network/information security within South African tertiary education institutions. The competition was split into two rounds, because of the high level of interest from students. There was a first qualification round, where 416 students, comprising 125 teams, competed for a place in the final round. A team normally comprises four members, and there are 12 team places in the final round. During the final round, 12 teams comprising 44 students (some teams only comprised three members) competed in a number of challenges over the course of the event. This year, a team from Mozambique qualified to participate in the competition with returning teams from Botswana and Namibia.

The SANReN Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) provides services and support to the SANReN beneficiaries to prevent and respond to information technology (IT) security incidents. These incidents can include hacking, denial of service attacks, ransomware, intellectual property theft, data breaches, compromised systems, as well as malware. The services provided by the team include incident response support and coordination (in partnership with TENET, operator of SANReN), vulnerability assessments (to report on and provide remediation advice for the security weaknesses of a beneficiary’s IT infrastructure), as well as announcements of relevant news from the global information security community.

SANReN has been running a national Data Transfer Pilot project in an effort to increase the transfer speed and reliability of moving large datasets to and from South African researchers and scientists nationally and internationally. The pilot uses specialised hardware, software and network architectures to facilitate this large data transfer movement. With the growing capabilities of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), like SANReN, researchers should no longer need to transfer their data by shipping hard-drives to each other. The team is working with CHPC and DIRISA to provide more holistic data transfer solutions to the R&E community and has set up Data Transfer Nodes (DTNs) in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, which are now available to the South African R&E community.

Key Strategic Initiatives: SANReN
  1. Mature the SANReN Data Transfer (DT) pilot service aimed at localising Data Transfer Node (DTN) technology in order to provide a platform for the efficient transport of large amounts of digitized research and education data between South Africa’s higher education, research and innovation support organisations, as well as their regional and international collaborators and counterparts
  2. Grow the reach and capacity of the SANReN network by upgrading the backbone to a dark fibre network with 100Gbps circuits at inception, upgrading and adding various backbone extension links, upgrading of the Durban metro network, assisting TENET in connecting deep rural sites through the DHET funded Rural Campus Connectivity Projects (RCCPs) and assisting SABEN in connecting all TVETs on the SANReN network through the National Skills Fund (NSF) funded TVET Campus Connectivity Project (TCCP)
  3. Activate additional international capacity on the West Africa Cable System (WACS) for general use by the SANReN beneficiaries, as well as undertaking further capacity swap arrangements for capacity on other undersea cables (such as the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS)) in order to improve redundancy and support the Global Research and Education Network (REN) CEO Forum’s Global Network Advancement Group, which strives to establish a Global Research and Education Network (GREN)
  4. SANReN will continue to connect new sites onto the SANReN network in order to provide more than the 1.3 million users (which includes students, researchers and educators) at South Africa’s higher education, research and innovation support organizations with world-class National Research and Education Network (NREN) grade connectivity services.
  5. Increase the SANReN network’s capacity to provide a Total Available Broadband Capacity (TABC) that will exceed 3500Gbps
  6. In collaboration with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) implement a dark fibre link between Carnarvon and Beaufort-West that will allow MeerKAT measurement data to be carried over the new SANReN dark fibre backbone network from the SKA core site to the CHPC in Cape Town for astronomy processing
  7. Grow the SANReN Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) services portfolio to include an alerting service