Jian LIU and Zhiwen CHEN

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The China Education and Research Network (CERNET) promotes China’s worldwide status and influence in the field of Internet technology by providing a platform for international educational and scientific collaboration. It has become a leading research network because of its cutting-edge research in next generation Internet, including the China Next Generation Internet (CNGI)-CERNET2/6IX and its adoption of IPv6.

The China Education and Research Network (CERNET) is the largest national academic network in the world as of 2012, and is the backbone of Chinese Internet research technology. CERNET is supported by the Chinese government and managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE). Its network infrastructure mainly serves higher education institutions, research institutes, schools, and other nonprofit organizations.

CERNET’s mission is to address the needs of China’s national development. On one level, it serves in as an important part of the public service system—an essential infrastructure for both educational and national information systems. On another level, CERNET aims to become a national platform for research and development and to pioneer key Internet technologies, thus enhancing the nation’s reputation for independent innovation and promoting its information industry. It also aims to become a vital base for cultivating and training scientists, engineers, and technicians in information technology.

Since the 1980s the Internet has been profoundly changing the world. The degree of informationization—the explosive increase in the available volume of information that resulted from the development of Internet technology (IT)—has become an important measurement of the level of modernization of a nation. At the beginning of the 1990s, when the Internet already connected users in more than 100 countries, almost no Internet connections were available in China. To change this situation, ten leading Chinese universities (including Tsinghua University and Peking University), supported by the State Planning Commission and the MOE, jointly shouldered the historic task of developing the China Education and Research Network as a demonstration project. CERNET opened to users, marking a milestone in the development of the Internet in China, in 1994. Since then, the Internet in China has experienced dramatic development in which CERNET has played an important role. By the end of 2009 there were 384 million Internet end users in China and the number of IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) addresses reached 232 million—second in the world only to the United States.

In 2012 CERNET provides multiple services to its users, including network connections, educational and research resource platforms, supercomputing services, and the “.edu.cn” domain name and IP address assignment. CERNET currently connects to 2,000 higher education institutions and research institutes globally that service more than 30 million end users. It has set up backbone bandwidths at multiple 100 Gbps (gigabits per second) and regional bandwidths at up to multiple 2.5 Gbps/10 Gbps within China. It has also established ten mirror systems, each of which has bandwidth connection of up to 800 Mbps (megabits per second) linked with key universities and academic organizations in North America, Europe, and the Asia and Pacific region.

CERNET is a platform for conducting information technology research (e.g., grid and distribution computing, media and new types of P2P (peer to peer) applications, Internet television, wireless communication, and applications), as well as an educational platform for e-teaching and e-learning, courseware exchange, and database sharing. CERNET supports several large national informationization projects in education, including an online college students’ recruitment and consultation system, an e-learning system, digital library and museum systems, and grids for distributing application and service architectures (e.g., application-layer routing and searching, authentication and settlement, end-to-end performance optimization, a Chinese–English information inquiry system.

CERNET has launched a portal for Chinese educational information (http://www.edu.cn) and has set up a large search engine for about 1.5 million pages, in both Chinese and English, covering about 1 million files; it also supports the digitalization of libraries in 152 Chinese universities. This portal established the VoIP system and a video conferencing system that are widely used in the MOE, universities, and provincial bureaus of education. It also developed the HDTV (high-definition television) transmission system over the next-generation Internet with shared virtual reality and tele-immersion techniques.

CERNET is a leading research network because of its cutting-edge research in next-generation Internet. CERNET is in charge of a research project, CERNET2/6IX, which is the largest backbone of the China Next Generation Internet (CNGI) and exemplifies the direction of future development. The CNGI-CERNET2 backbone began to operate in 2004. It is a pure IPv6 network. The current Internet addressing system — Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) — was designed to support approximately four billion unique connections to the Internet. As a result of the explosive growth of internet users, a new Internet addressing system — Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) —allows more users and devices to communicate on the Internet by using bigger numbers to create IP addresses. This network provides an excellent open environment for scientific experiments and research, which strongly enhances China’s capacity for innovation in key information technologies and makes a significant contribution to the industrialization of core equipment for next-generation Internet in China.

CERNET is also a platform for international collaboration. CERNET has established extensive networks with academic organizations and well-known multinational corporations. Through collaborating globally and hosting international conferences, CERNET facilitates exchange and cooperation among universities, research institutes, and industry, which has promoted China’s status and influence in the field of Internet technology around the world.

Through the research and construction of CERNET, scientists and engineers in the fields of Internet, grid, and information technology applications have been cultivated in many universities, and tens of thousands of technicians have been trained to manage and maintain CERNET in more than 2,000 organizations. Millions of students use CERNET to gain knowledge about the Internet and its applications.

CERNET has developed a unique three-tier structure with which it effectively organizes research and provides services. The physical structure consists of the backbone, the regional level, and the campus level. The administrative structure includes the Guidance Group in the MOE, which is the highest decision-making body of CERNET; it comprises the Administrative Committee—MoE officials and the vice presidents of ten leading universities who are in charge of strategic planning, and the Expert Committee, which is in charge of overall planning and project management. The National Center, located at Tsinghua University, is responsible for implementing the policies and plans developed by the Expert Committee. The operational and managerial structure is composed of a national operations center, regional centers, and provincial main nodes distributed throughout thirty-eight universities that are responsible for Internet maintenance, resource allocation, exception and performance management, security, and billing.

In spite of limited government funding, CERNET has been developed and maintained in pace with and even beyond advanced international standards, and has become an important part of China’s national information system—a platform for providing services as well as conducting research in information technology. Various factors, such as highly motivated and dedicated people, a good team spirit, efficient collaboration, and creative mechanisms for organization and operations, underlie the success of CERNET.

Further Reading

CERNET. (2011). Homepage. Retrieved March 28, 2012, from http://www.edu.cn/cernet_fu_wu_1325/index.shtml (in Chinese), and http://www.edu.cn/english_1369/index.shtml (in English

China Internet Network Information Center. (2010). Statistical report on internet development in China. Retrieved March 29, 2012, fromhttp://www.cnnic.cn/uploadfiles/pdf/2010/8/24/93145.pdf

CERNET zouguo shiwunian [15 years development of CERNET]. China Education Network, (2010). Z1, p.12.

Liu Jian. (2002, November 2). CERNET: The backbone of China’s Internet. China Education Daily, p. 2.

Wu Jianping. (2006). CERNET zai chuang huihuang [CERNET has gained splendid achievement]. China Education Network, 9, 11–15.

Yuan Chengshen, & Zhang Yongjun. (1997). Zhongguo jiaoyu he jisuanji wang (CERNET) de huigu yu zhanwang [CERNET: retrospect and prospect]. China Higher Education, 1, 30–31.

Source: Liu Jian, & Chen Ziwen. (2012). China Education and Research Network (CERNET). In Zha Qiang (Ed.), Education in China: Educational history, models, and initiatives. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.