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History of KanREN

The Kansas Research and Education Network (KanREN) was originally founded in 1991 to create a statewide backbone network to extend Internet access to all Kansas higher education institutions. Although the largest universities in the state had Internet connectivity as early as 1986 through MIDnet (a Federally funded regional network), by the early 1990s most Kansas colleges and universities were still not connected. In response to this need, the Regents Computer Advisory Committee (RCAC, now known as RITC - the Regents Information Technology Council) began rigorous planning for a statewide education network, involving a team largely drawn from the networking and computing staff at the University of Kansas. A consortium of 35 Kansas institutions including the Board of Regents universities, most of the state's community colleges, and several private colleges and universities - established an organization to facilitate the design, assembly, and management of the planned network. This organization became known as KanREN.

In 1993, KanREN was awarded a grant of nearly $700,000 through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Connections program to begin building the network, and to provide connectivity for KanREN charter members. The first sites were connected by the fall of 1993, and within a year all of the original KanREN member institutions were a part of the network.

Early Network Growth
KanREN grew in capability and membership when a second grant proposal was funded by the NSF in 1994, allowing for an upgrade to the backbone network and the connection of several additional sites. The initial NSF grants also allowed KanRENs member institutions to be connected for 18-24 months at no cost, after which each member site paid a membership fee along with fees for connectivity and services. This transition occurred in 1995, and KanREN became a self-funded organization with the sole focus of serving its members advanced networking needs. KanREN continues operation using this cost recovery model today.

Also in 1995, KanREN widened membership eligibility to include K-12 school districts, libraries, and other non-profit organizations with an education or research mission. As membership expanded - and demand for Internet bandwidth exploded - KanREN's Internet bandwidth consumption grew by an order of magnitude from 1994 to 2000, and has increased at a comparable rate since that time. It was also during this time that, as the Internet became commoditized, researchers and educators found they needed a new internet that was dedicated to their community; a place where bandwidth was plentiful and used exclusively for Research and Education purposes. This new Internet was realized by the implementation of Abilene, a nationwide R&E network created by Internet2.

In keeping with its advanced networking directive, KanREN has been on the forefront of Internet2 (I2) development and implementation. The Great Plains Network was established in 1997 through NSF grants to be a research-specific regional network, and KanREN, as their state-level counterpart, worked with the Great Plains Network to become the first I2 connector in the US. As a result, Kansas was the first to have this technology available statewide, and KU the first university to have a fully productional connection to I2. KanREN continues to contribute to I2 development, through active participation in working groups and steering committees, and by testing emerging technologies that will become commonplace in the near future. By the beginning of 2008, 26% of KanREN network traffic traversed the Internet2 network before reaching its final destination.

Partnership with Kan-ed in 2003
ke logoKanREN was awarded a contract with Kan-ed, a state-funded backbone network initiative established by the state legislature and administered by the Kansas Board of Regents. KanREN manages and maintains the Kan-ed network and Network Operations Center, providing technical support and network engineering for Kan-ed services like Interactive Distance Learning. In addition, Kan-ed and KanREN have partnered to facilitate the connection of all Kansas K20 institutions to Internet2 via the Internet2 SEGP (Sponsored Education Group Participant) program.

Engineering for Tomorrow
KanREN has a singular goal for the future to remain at the forefront of network technologies for the benefit of the education and research communities of Kansas. By implementing advanced networking solutions in their earliest stages, KanREN can continue providing expertise, capacity, and network sophistication at the leading edges of development. Just as KanREN offered QoS, VPN, Multicast, IPv6, and Internet2 years ahead of widespread adoption, its singular focus will remain on putting technology into production that opens opportunities and remove limitations for advanced research and education in Kansas.

Recent and ongoing KanREN initiatives include:

  • Active involvement in education
  • Networking issues at the state level
  • Partnering with Kan-ed to speak for research and education networking
  • Provide the legislature with impartial technical information
  • Completion and implementation of a new backbone that promises cost-effective growth and virtually unlimited bandwidth.
    • This flexible network also uses the same technologies KanREN members use in their own facilities, enabling greater and easier use of the backbone.
  • Recent connection of all Regents Institutions as backbone nodes
    • Each of these institutions have identical, homogenous connections which substantially increases their current and future ability to collaborate and share information resources with each other.

Since 1993, KanREN has been wholly focused on providing advanced networking solutions to the growing research and education communities of Kansas.