La rete della ricerca italiana GARR
The Italian research network GARR
Enzo Valente
  • In the field of IT networks Italy has always played a leading role at international level.
  • At the beginning, as in many other countries, the situation was rather fragmented and by the late 70s several different networks had already been developed within the research sector.
  • In 1978 RPCnet, the CNR network became operational; 1979 INFNet, the network of nuclear physics and in 1984 the National University Network (RNU) was presented, connecting all universities involved in calculation programming (CILEA, CINECA, CSATA). However, each of these networks spoke its own language because they all used different protocols which made any kind of inter-network collaboration difficult.
  • The first intercontinental connections between different network types was made thanks to satellite communications, between the UK and Norway in 1977.
  • Italy was the third European country, in 1986, to connect a network node to ARPANET, thanks to CNUCE, a CNR institute in Pisa, which established the connection through an agreement with Italcable and Telespazio.
  • At that time the European Academic and Research Network (EARN) was just being set up, a continental version of the American inter-university network BITNET, which facilitated use of the network for scholastic and research purposes and stimulated the growth of a uniform community of users. Italy was the first country to connect to BITNET.
  • The experience of the first networks connecting different groups demonstrated all too soon that the individual networks alone could not continue as before: too expensive and inadequate to ensure the exchange of inter-disciplinary data necessary to research.
  • It was time to share resources and experiment jointly.
  • Given the growing use of telecommunications networks to exchange information, researchers soon realized that the creation of channels that were faster, reliable, and above all interoperable would be the vital prerequisite for future research.
  • At an economic level, it was obvious that duplicating resources and time for a whole range of incompatible networks for each individual field of application or private interest group was not the route ahead.
  • Against this background, the European Commission began to define more long term objectives and launched the EUREKA programme to support projects for innovation and R&D in all technological sectors.
  • One such project within the programme was COSINE (Cooperation for Open Systems Interconnection in Europe), aimed at promoting co-operation among researchers in Europe and promoting development of open networks and the use of a non-proprietary protocol such as OSI.
  • COSINE (1985-1993), in particular, aimed to set up a single network within the European research scenario and to achieve this every country would need to begin a process of harmonization of the existing national level networks.
  • Given the European encouragement, the minister for Scientific Research Mr. Granelli and his successor Antonio Ruberti, with the delegate for EUREKA projects, Orio Carlini, began to lay the basis for Italian participation in a common European network, calling a meeting of the key players in the national IT networks, who began the work of integrating their different systems.
  • So it was that in 1986, during one of the preliminary meetings that the word GARR was pronounced for the first time: Gruppo per L'Armonizzazione delle Reti della Ricerca.
  • A formal request was then submitted to Minister Ruberti for constitution of this workgroup, by the 6 founding bodies: CNR, INFN, ENEA, CILEA, CINECA, Tecnopolis CSATA.
  • The request was granted and GARR, initially formed as spontaneous workgroup, was formally established as a ministerial commission under a decree passed on 11 March 1988.
  • The commission, chaired by Prof. Orio Carlini, immediately began working on the infrastructure of the national network, using the funds for infrastructure investment assigned in that year's budget to the Ministry of Scientific Research (50 billion Lire were allocated to calculation and network projects).
  • In addition to the creation of a single unifying network, GARR also worked to extend and integrate network services, rationalizing expenses and harmonizing development policies.
  • At an international level, Garr's contributions included significant co-ordination in relation to European networks and promotion of scientific collaboration.
  • The new unified network sparked a fruitful season of technological innovation in the networking sector, thanks to the constant labour and spirit of collaboration of all players involved.
Happy Birthday ISOC