CUDI Puts Mexican Research on the Map

Mexico’s University Corporation for Internet Development, known by its Spanish acronym CUDI, is helping drive the Latin American giant’s digital ambitions. A private, non-profit organization, CUDI manages the …

Mexico’s University Corporation for Internet Development, known by its Spanish acronym CUDI, is helping drive the Latin American giant’s digital ambitions. A private, non-profit organization, CUDI manages the country’s National Research and Education Network (RNIE).

2014 marks CUDI’s 15th anniversary, with the organization having grown its commitment to building a national network with global connections, including the important Internet2 community in the United States.

“Internet2 and CUDI have a partnership and network peering agreement allowing researchers in both the U.S. and Mexico to work across our networks without needing to apply for direct membership with Internet2,” says Ann Doyle, Director Global and Cultural Programs, Internet2. “This then fosters collaboration in research and education among its members.”

These are big organizations that include academic, corporate, and government members, allowing them to share research data on fast and secure global networks. CUDI, for example, has a national backbone of more than 8,000 kilometers of high-capacity network infrastructure, with three links connecting to the rest of the world, all running at 155 megabits per second.

“It functions as a seamless network allowing research and education exchange between CUDI and Internet2 colleagues,” says Doyle.

This connectivity results in some significant advantages for Mexican researchers. Internet2 alone includes 247 U.S. universities and 78 corporations among its members, as well as scores of government agencies and regional and state education networks. All told, CUDI researchers in Mexico can access more than 70 similar networks in Europe, Asia, Oceania and Latin America that interconnect over 10,000 universities and research centers.

The digital difference

The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was elected to a six-year term in July 2012, has embarked on an ambitious National Digital Strategy. Central to this is an understanding that the country’s Internet infrastructure has to be world class, and that the public and private sectors need to collaborate to transform government, build a digital economy, and improve education, health, and public safety.

The goal, according to Alejandra Lagunes Soto Ruiz, the coordinator of the Strategy, is for Mexico to move up from fifth place with regard to connectivity in Latin America – where it now stands – to first place by 2018. That time frame of 60 months, according to Ms. Lagunes, is feasible if the Strategy is “the result of a collaborative effort, dialogue with experts, industry, academics, policy makers, civil society organizations and citizens.”

CUDI is certainly part of this ambitious plan. The network can handle the most advanced telecommunications network protocols such as QoS, Multicast, IPv6, H.323, MPLS, and HDTV. With its own network operations center (NOC), CUDI runs critical tests for scientific and multi-media applications, as well as for advanced research to link up with experts around the world.

“There are a number of exciting examples of research collaboration between CUDI and Internet2,” says Doyle. “These include an international collaborative network supporting geodetic and atmospheric investigations and sea level monitoring, as well as earthquake research at the US-Mexico border.”

Excitement for 2014

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An important part of Mexico’s digital strategy coming into 2014 will be CUDI’s IXP, or digital exchange point, which allows for high-speed traffic to be handled within Mexico’s borders. To date, Mexico has not had a designated IXP, which has meant that locally generated data has been handled by foreign exchange points. That raises costs to Mexican ISPs by as much as 20%, with those costs then passed on to consumers.

According to Salma Jalife, International Affairs Coordinator at CUDI in Mexico City, the new Mexican IXP is expected to be fully operational by the end of January this year. It will be located west of the capital on the road to Toluca, and will be run by Kio Networks.

“We want to study the possibility of having several IXPs in different Latin America countries,” Jalife said in an interview with Mexico’s El Universal newspaper.  “Mexico and Latin America are seeing new players, not just traditional telecoms, but also academic institutions that generate a lot of traffic, and increased traffic among companies.”

Having the capacity to address demand across society should also boost increased direct foreign investment, because it ensures that the network infrastructure is in place to scale well into the 21st century, and allows for large corporations with significant B2B requirements to feel secure about their operations.

That last point – security – is not lost on Internet2, which has open connectivity with CUDI, but must also ensure that academic institutions, private companies, and government agencies are not hacked either for personal data or in areas that might infringe on national security.

“We have made great strides ensuring security,” says Doyle from Internet2. “We can achieve this through shared federated identity management systems with our international partners across the world.”

For Mexico, having such an impressive and secure backbone means the government can move forward with key points of its digital strategy, such as an electronic-signature supported mobile tax service, an Internet platform for birth certificates and immunization records, and Web-supported distance education. And as this ambitious plan unfolds, Mexico’s new IXP, and the CUDI members who are driving innovation, will be front and center.

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