This year RIPN celebrates 10 years of its foundation. As in case of any other anniversary it's high time to sum up, to analyze the work done and to forecast the future. Alexey Platonov the RIPN director answers the questions of International Inter-Branch Journal.
Journal: How RIPN was established? Could you remember its first projects?
Alexey Platonov: In the beginning of 90th Internet in Russia didn't expand the same way it did in other countries. There it kept going generally owing to state programs, but in Russia it existed for account of commercial sector of economy and RIPN foundation was one of the first attempts of the State to support Russian Internet. RIPN was founded in 1992 by Science and Higher School State Committee, Kurchatov Nuclear Reasearch Institute and Kurchatov Computer Center. Originally the Institute was noncommercial organization, its basic activity being limited to building networks in the field of Science and Education. The first RIPN's large-scale project was institution of RELARN association. The major task was to provide scientific and edutional organizations with Internet services, that meant providing access to e-mail at that time. RIPN didn't possess its own network then so the task was carried out in cooperation with largest commercial providers - Relcom, Demos, IAS, RosNet, Techno. RIPN had control over State dotations distribution, paid commecial providers for granting scientific and educational organizations access to Internet and realized technical support. During an year we managed to provide several thousand organizations in approx. 50 cities in Russia with minimal access to Intrenet, but that was done using facilities belonging to others. Subsequently, it became evident that a lot of inconvenience resulted from this practice and that was why starting from 1993 RIPN began to set up its own network infrastructure, in particular, Moscow Backbone Network.
J: On this way you couldn't avoid difficulties, could you?
AP: Certainly, we couldn't. Initially the talk was about the fiber-optic network that should have been spread from Kurchatov Institute to Moscow South West where International Telephone Station (ITS-9) the largest communication and traffic exchange center was situated. En route scientific and educational organizations should have connected to this network. But for the lack of money in 1994 the network's South part was bought by Soros Fund. The RIPN's quota in providing Internet was cut down to 70 organizations at North West and Center of Moscow. But in eight years Moscow Backbone Network has grown multifoldly. At the start RIPN drew about 50 kilometers of wire over the route North East - Center, but by now there are more than 200 kilometers of fiber-optic lines in our possession.
J: How did you start to administer national domain RU?
AP: In 1992 when the opportunity to get the control over national domain RU arose three Russian companies - Relcom, Demos and FreeNet - simultaneously and independently applied to Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). All the three having been rejected, IANA suggested that Russian Internet community should itself choose the organization to get the right to administer National domain RU. It was quite explicable why in 1992 at the assembly of largest providers it had been decided to delegate these powers to RIPN. By that time we had manifested ourselves as reliable company and had demonstrated high professional standart. Futhremore, it should have been uncommitted organization and so most preferably noncommercial - RIPN met all these requirements. Thus, starting from 7th of April 1994 RIPN had been administering and technically supporting national domain RU.
J: How did the company's structure change in view of expansion of your functions?
AP: There wasn't much work at the first stage of administering national domain - just the process of free domain distribution, for the most part geographic domains (msk, spb, etc), took place. It were local providers who included domain cost into startup charge or monthly fee. It was only at the stage of rapid web-servers expansion when a great quantity of second level domains had been demanded that the work content had sharply increased and the necessity to charge fee for domains had arisen. RIPN basically retained technical functions leaving elaboration of rules to informal association - Domain RU Coordinating Group. In 1998 an issue came up that a system of independent domain names registrars should be set up. With the approval of Coordinating Group an experimental zone was founded and within its limits an elaboration of distributed registration system started. At the same time RIPN extracted RU-CENTER (Russian Network Information Center) out of its structure and handed administering domains over to it retaining Data Base and Address Support System, i.e. the technical aspect of national domain functioning. Nowadays RU-zone houses about 135000 domains. More than 43,000 of them were registered by RU-CENTER, 2,000 - by other Registrars and about 88,000 are retained by RIPN.
J: Could you mention your most successful projects of last years?
AP: From 1996 on the necessity to set up Moscow traffic exchange post was becoming more evident. To avoid conflicts it had to be independent noncommercial organization with impeccable reputation to take up this task and RIPN was the one. RIPN has established and keep enlarging the system of IP traffic exchange (Internet eXchange) that maintains traffic exchange of Russian Internet providers. The project has achieved such a scale that it has become essential to single out it into separate branch establishment- Network Coordinating Center (MSK-IX). By now more than a hundred providers are connected to it. MSK-IX has 6 nods interconnected by fiber-optic lines with throughput 1 Gbit/s. Another one in the row of important and successful projects was building of Russian Backbone Network (RBNet). In 1996 Ministry of Science, Ministry of Education, Russian Academy of Science and Russian Fund of Fundamental Researches founded inter-branch program. Its concept was worked out by Ministry of Science working group in cooperation with all leading noncommercial Internet providers. The program was aimed to support science and higher school, its main purpose being integration of separate regional scientific and educational networks into common network. RIPN opened 50 posts of presence all over Russia to which 70 regional networks including summarily 2,000-2,500 organizations are connected. For the time of program implementation the channel capacity arose from initial 256 Kbit up to 45 Mbit. The RBNet expansion will not stop at that: the next step of inter-branch program named "Building national scientific computer network of new generation" is planned for the period of 2002-2006.
J: It's a tradition to complete an interview asking about future plans. What awaits RIPN in the nearest future?
AP: Our plans include building contemporary high speed telecommunication system connected to American and European networks. Building Internet infrastructure isn't topicality nowadays. We need to step over to informational level while still developing "physics" that is a routine work for us. We shall not create content ourselves but we plan to develop the system of processing and delivering for science&education oriented content.