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ADEnet: A national project to achieve low cost access to computing resources for distance students

1991 National Priority (Reserve) Fund Project Report

Western Australian Distance Education Consortium

Supplementary Report June 1993 by Roger Atkinson, Project Convenor

Background and context

This supplementary report on ADEnet project activities during the period September 1992 to June 1993 should be read in conjunction with the main report (Report September 1992, Atkinson, 1992a). It indicated an amount of $26,081 in funds available, for which permission was granted to carry over into 1993 activities for the completion of the project.

The general objective for 1993 was stated as "make provisions for a number of sites which do not warrant the larger scale approach found to be appropriate for the Sydney and Melbourne sites" (Atkinson, 1992b). The plan for 1993 as drafted in September 1992 contained the following activities and expenditure to extend over a period of twelve months:

  1. Investigate sites for modems in Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and Perth, which are medium size in relation to demand from students. Investigate a number of small sites at regional colleges of TAFE and TAFE centres. A proposal is in preparation with the TAFE Centre at Dubbo, NSW.

  2. Adopt a model which is suitable for medium and small centres, based upon access to a host which can perform user authentication for small numbers of students, more economically than the installation of dedicated terminal servers which are suitable only for the largest sites.

  3. Arrange installation of 2 to 5 modems and telephone connections in the most readily available sites. Costs are expected to be in the range $1,000 to $1,500 per modem installed. Ten standalone modems used in 1992 on a temporary basis at the Sydney and Melbourne sites pending the delivery of rackmounts and modem cards will be available for relocation at smaller sites.
This supplementary report describes the mid year progress made with this plan, and gives statistical data for the University Centre site in Sydney, an updated account of expenditure, costs per port at different types of site, and an estimated date for completing the project's expenditure.

This report also provides a brief review of current issues in network access for distance education, open learning and community based purposes. It defines the differences between network access and network services, and shows how a wide variety of types of sites is emerging for providing network access. Institutional, community based and private providers all have a role in providing network access. In metropolitan and large regional centres, a number of providers of network access may cater for different types of users, or compete with one another for clients, but in rural and remote districts it is likely that a single provider must be organised in order to achieve viable access to the network.

Major sites

The major sites are at the University Centre in Sydney and at Monash University in Melbourne. Report September 1992 gave reasons for selecting Dataplex rackmount modems and indicated that
Dataplex' s delivery time for rackmounted modems lengthened considerably since the initial negotiations. These units are now expected to be available early in October. As an interim measure, ten standalone modems were ordered from Dataplex for immediate delivery.
Very considerable further delays have occurred in securing supplies of Dataplex's DPX-225-11 rackmount modems for the project. When prototypes became available, Monash University Computer Centre staff subjected the DPX-225 to several months of beta testing, during which a number of faults were found and corrected by Dataplex. It should be noted that the DPX 225 implements more advanced capabilities than the V32 (9600 b/s) modems envisaged originally for the project. The DPX 225 provides also V32bis (14,400 b/s) and the CCITT error correction and data compression protocols, V42 and V42bis. After completion of this testing, the Project's order for 2 racks and 32 DPX 225 cards was faxed to Dataplex on 5 March, with an expectation of delivery in early April. A number of extensions of the delivery date have been notified by Dataplex since ordering. The reasons given for the series of setbacks include Dataplex's commitment to an order of 1800 modem cards for Telecom, and delays in obtaining Austel approval for the rackmount power supply which has a different voltage compared with the previously approved version for Telecom.

After failure to meet the most recent extension, which was to "early June delivery", Dataplex provided a loan of ten standalone DPX 225s. These are being installed at the end of June, to give an interim capacity at Monash University whilst awaiting the current promised delivery date, 27 July. During the wait for DPX 225s, the University Centre in Sydney has continued to provide an interim capacity with eight modems which were temporarily installed in 1992.

Although the series of extensions in the delivery date have been very frustrating, the project has not cancelled the Dataplex order, nor changed to the standalone version which is now readily available. This is due to the extra work in finding and checking an alternative modem, the importance of conforming with Monash's own order for DPX 225 rackmounts, and a preference for rackmounts at both sites.

Statistical data for the University Centre has been collected by Bruce Robertson of University of Wollongong Information Technology Services. A program running on wampyr at Wollongong University executes the command "finger @ts1.unicentre.edu.au" every 15 minutes. The output of this is processed and appended to a datafile, from which can be determined the number of modems with an active call and the number of current accesses to the available hosts including the identity of the host. For example, the data for May show:

Modems in use Calls detectedPercentage use


There are 2976 sampling occasions in a 31 day month and on that basis a percentage use can be calculated (with some rounding to integers). There are limitations with this type of program as it shows the state of connections at instants which are 15 minutes apart, and thus may miss counting a call which is shorter than 15 minutes. However, the data serve the main purpose of assessing the load on the modems and the major directions for the traffic. Whilst the data do not prove that there have been no occasions on which all modems were in use, it does seem that eight modems will suffice until the rackmounts are installed early in August. Call logging data from the University Centre PABX is incomplete at present, but during March 2744 calls to the modems were logged, that is an average of about 90 calls per day. Growth in demand is very difficult to predict, the upgrade to sixteen modems should provide adequate capacity for the next two years.

Until April 1993, connections to the University Centre encountered some problems with apparently noisy lines (data transmission errors). This was probably due to an earth loop caused by the installation of a 48 volt supply on the Nortel PABX without a proper power earth. After correction of this fault by University of Wollongong staff, a very high standard of transmission is now achieved. For example, some short test calls without an error correcting modem from Murdoch University to cleo.murdoch.edu.au, traversing the continent twice via Telecom PSTN lines (and twice via AARNet's Megalinks leased from Telecom), showed completely error free transmission.

Small sites

In moving on to the development of small sites, the project recognised that it would be able to provide for only a few sites after the commitment of about two thirds of its funds to the main sites in Sydney and Melbourne. Therefore it became important to provide some models or pilots which could illustrate creative solutions to the problem of network access, tailored to suit local circumstances. In doing this it is important that solutions be consistent with several constraints: The two models reported on below are not the only models. Many variations are available but within the context of the limited role and funding for ADEnet it is felt that these two are especially significant contributions to the general problem of optimising small site models for AARNet access.

Perth site

The Perth site has been developed by agreement between the Computer Services Unit and External Studies Unit at Murdoch University. As the number of ADEnet users in Perth is relatively small, the most economical method is to integrate with the provisions for Murdoch University students and staff. The basis of the agreement is that the ADEnet Project provided funds for an increase in the capacity of Murdoch's general pool of modems. The extent of this increase is significantly greater than the expected number of ADEnet users, in order to compensate Murdoch for undertaking additional work and providing host capacity on the External Studies Unit's host "Cleo" (cleo.murdoch.edu.au).

The requirements for additional work and host capacity arise because it is necessary to provide ADEnet users with a login and password on a host suitable for students. This ensures user authentication in accordance with AARNet and Internet procedures, before permitting such users to invoke telnet to communicate with their universities. The advantage of this approach is that it caters for small numbers of users without requiring a dedicated Annex 3 and an associated, dedicated set of modems.

Experience to date with the ADEnet Project suggested that about 10 to 20 users enrolled with other distance education universities will seek access in Perth each year. The ADEnet Project contributed $5,700, approximately equal to 3 modems, phone lines and terminal server ports, which is considered to be a reasonable excess capacity as compensation for the work which the External Studies Unit does in administering the site. This agreement will be in place for four years, during which time the ESU will look after ADEnet users (issue login name and initial password, undertake user support, and provide appropriate telnet privileges). Distance education universities provide ESU with an email contact for verification of student enrolments, and advise their students about who to contact (External Studies) for Perth ADEnet access. Depending on experience with the average level of demand for connect time, ESU may nominate an upper limit of 20 on the number of ADEnet login names active in any given semester.

The amount of $1,900 per port was agreed with the Computer Services Unit as a reasonable approximation to the average cost per port. This approximation is based on expenditure for a new Annex 3 terminal server and modem pool (Netcomm V32 V32bis V42 V42bis MNP4&5 standalones), with direct lines to the Telecom exchange which serves Murdoch. The direct lines were necessary because Murdoch's NEC 2400 IMG PABX has reached its limit of economical expansion, with all 1264 extensions allocated, and replacement with a more modern PABX is about 2 or 3 years in the future. The components for the approximate calculation are $440 per Annex 3 port, $940 per modem and $500 per phone line, with the total rounded up to $1,900 to include a contribution towards cabling and installation. The Annex 3 cost assumes that although configured for 32 ports, the effective commissioning over the next 3 to 4 years will be only 16 ports. The telephone line cost reflects the extra recurrent cost which the Computer Services Unit will carry for several years until a new PABX becomes available.

A small group of three high priority users of the Perth ADEnet site have had access since mid April 1993, during a period when a number of temporary modems, including the ADEnet DPX 296 standalones, have been in use. The permanent installation of 12 ports with two numbers on telephone rotaries (09 310 5122 and 09 310 5465) was completed at the end of June. It is now possible to accept all ADEnet users in Perth without restriction. Host Cleo has a command "adenet", which gives users a menu very similar to the University Centre Sydney menu. This is easier for users compared with the alternative which is to type commands of the form "telnet hostx.universityx.edu.au".

As a host administered by the External Studies Unit, Cleo will offer network access for selected categories of community users relevant for distance education and open learning support services. These include the Learning Network Centres and Telecentres which are being established in Western Australia. Such access is feasible up to the extent of the surplus capacity which the ADEnet project has funded in the modem pool, and the extent to which ESU staff are able to sustain the additional workload due to ADEnet and community users. As an experimental development, the Cleo project envisages that future policies on cost recovery will be determined after operational experience and empirical evidence has been obtained.

Dubbo TAFE site

The purpose for this part of the project is providing a model example for a small ADEnet site which draws upon intersector collaboration and serves a remote rural community. The Dubbo site is in the Western Institute of TAFE and Orana Community College, which agreed to house the necessary equipment for local dialup access, and provide a "drop in" facility for students who do not have their own PCs. The site is very suitable as a model for replication at other locations, for the following reasons.
  1. Intersector collaboration established. This has been in place for some time with Dubbo TAFE as a centre for support services to CSU and UNE external students. In addition to improved services for these students, the site can improve in a small way the exposure of NSW TAFE to AARNet.

  2. A sizeable number of students. There are about 380 UNE and CSU external students in the district, plus at least 20 enrolled with other DECs.

  3. Equity factor for serving rural and remote locations. Dubbo is about the right size, that is the centre has sufficient numbers of students to warrant a site, whilst it is a typical example of a rural and remote centre.

  4. Institutional commitment to support the site. CSU and UNE share the recurrent costs of a leased line to the nearest AARNet connection point, CSU's Bathurst Campus, in order to access the full range of services. CSU technicians are undertaking the installation of the equipment and services.

  5. A model for technical solutions at a small site without an existing AARNet infrastructure. No other form of network access is available, except Austpac or long distance dialup. The Dubbo TAFE campus has only a 4.8 kb/s DDS link to Sydney, reserved exclusively for their own administration and some use by their library staff.

  6. A PC is already on site and available for use by students who do not have their own PC and modem.
Higher costs per port are inevitable at a small site which does not have an AARNet infrastructure already in place. Compared with the large sites at Monash and at the University Centre Sydney, the main additional requirements are a router and equipment for terminating an ISDN semi permanent connection between Dubbo and the nearest entry point to AARNet at the Bathurst campus of CSU. Also, the cost per terminal server port used is higher for a small site. Certain technical approaches could deliver a full set of TCP/IP network services at lower cost than a conventional terminal server and router (for example, Le Roux, 1993). However, alternative approaches to terminal server and router functions were not realistic options for the Dubbo TAFE site, owing to the lack of highly specialised technical expertise, and the need for a reliable and rapid installation.

The approach to network security is the same as that adopted at Monash and the University Centre. The terminal server's intelligence is used to restrict callers to the addresses available from the menu. The menu is changeable remotely which is an advantage because Dubbo is about 200 km from Bathurst. CSU technicians have access to a "loop back" to log on as a user, then via a password which permits privileged commands, can log into the host port which controls the menus.

In order to economise on expenditure, a second hand 3 Com terminal server was purchased from Bond University. This unit has 10 asynchronous ports which provides ample capacity for future expansion in the number of modems and the number of PCs and Macintoshes for users who come on site instead of dialling in.

The responsibilities and contributions by the parties to the Dubbo TAFE site are:

1. ADEnet project. Provide capital items (a).
Total cost to ADEnet budget$12,056

2. CSU and UNE. Install, maintain and provide recurrent items.
ISDN semi permanent connection Dubbo - Bathurst 64 kb/s (b)
Installation by CSU staff - accommodation and travel
PCs for the "drop in" facility - not costed in this budget.
Total for CSU and UNE budgets$9,532

3. Dubbo TAFE. Provide accommodation.
Rooms, access to PABX and cabling within the Dubbo campus provided without charge to the project and not costed in this budget.

  1. Detailed in the Budget outcomes section of this report. Equipment items are recorded on the Asset Register for CSU and identified as purchases by the ADEnet Project.
  2. $200 installation fee plus $9,132 per year recurrent. Maintenance by CSU.

The Dubbo TAFE site provides potential options for some innovative expansion in the future. It could develop the additional function of providing a community based network access service on a fee paying basis, via a host similar to cleo.murdoch.edu.au. One option is a local host shared by TAFE, university student, business and community users, whilst another option is a similar, remote host at a CSU or UNE campus. Under either option, subscriptions from fee paying users would help to pay the high cost of the ISDN semi permanent to the nearest AARNet connected campus, the Mitchell Campus of CSU in Bathurst.

ADEnet Budget outcomes at 26 June 1993

The project budget to date is detailed below. The project has continued without any expenditure on staffing, travel or office expenses, although it was stated in Report September 1992 that
Staffing relief or staff appointments for undertaking the project were not included. It became evident that this was a serious handicap and a major reason for the project proceeding at only about one third of the projected pace. Partly because of the severity of the continuing decline in institutional funding per full time equivalent student, projects of this type and complexity have a much greater need for staffing than has been customary in the past. A further twelve months should be planned for completing the project.

Assets registers

Equipment purchased by the project is identified on the assets register for the institution which is hosting the site, except for the eight DPX-296 V32 standalone modems which are in reserve.

Income ItemSubtotalTotal

Reserve Fund grant 90,900
Interest from Murdoch University      7,740
Less University administrative expenses  - 4,166
Net interest earnings 3,5743,574

Total income 94,47494,474

Expenditure Main sites actual and committed ItemSubtotalTotal

1. Monash site:
a. Xylogics Annex 3 terminal server, 32 ports
b. Four 6 port Octopus cables @ $122 each
c. Rack mount kit for above
d. 16 DPX-225-11 modem cards @ $800 (1)
e. Rackmount and power supply (1)
f. Freight for d. and e. (1)
g. PABX and server lines
Subtotal Monash site 29,221
2. University Centre Sydney site:
a. Cisco and PC routers - being an agreed share for the
Project to bear, approx. one third of the cost of these
these items, shareable with other functions at the UC.
b. Annex III terminal server - full cost for a 32 port
configuration as requisitioned for the Monash site,
plus connectors, software and miscellaneous items
not available already at the University Centre.
c. Part cost for second tier of Nortel SLI PABX
expansion, an agreed share for the Project to bear.
d. One 16 port card for PABX 16 lines to modems.
e. Power supplies, racks, installation, general cabling.
f. 16 DPX-225-11 modem cards @ $800 (1)
g. Rackmount and power supply (1)
h. Freight for f. and g. (1)



Subtotal University Centre Sydney site 33,558

Subtotal main sites 62,779
Expenditure Small sites actual and committed Item
2. Murdoch University Perth site
Freight 3 modems from Monash to Murdoch University
Computer Services Unit for 3 Annex ports, phone lines
Subtotal Murdoch University Perth site 5,826
3. Dubbo TAFE site (2)
Router (NAT) at Dubbo
X21 card for Summit multiplexer at Dubbo
Half share of X21 card for MSPAN mux at Bathurst (est)
Modems, two Dataplex DPX 296 V32 MNP4&5 @ $750
Install 2 exchange lines
Terminal Server (3 Com CS210) second hand ex Bond Uni
Cabling and transceivers
Freight on terminal server and modems (estimated)
Subtotal Dubbo TAFE site 12,056

Subtotal small sites

Total expenditure actual and committed all sites 80,661
Eight DPX-296 V32 standalone modems @ $750 in reserve (3) 6,000
Funds remaining in WADEC ADEnet account 26 June 1992 (4) 7,813

Total 94,474


  1. Dataplex have promised a firm delivery date for the DPX-225-11 modem cards, rackmount and power supplies to the Monash and University Centre Sydney sites. This is 27 July 1993. In accordance with usual practice the supplier will not be paid until delivery and acceptance of the equipment.

  2. Dubbo TAFE site items terminal server and modems have been purchased and delivered. Other expenditure on equipment and services is being conducted by Charles Sturt University and installation is in progress.

  3. Ten DPX-296 V32 standalone modems were purchased in 1992 for interim use at Monash and Sydney Centre sites. At present two are charged to the Dubbo TAFE site. The eight in reserve are with the Perth site (three) and University Centre site (five), and will become available for use at other sites after new modems are installed.

  4. The estimated date for completing the project's expenditure is September 1993. Negotiations are progressing with the University of South Australia, exploring the possibility for a site development similar to the Perth site at Murdoch University.

Defining network access

This section provides a definition of network access and network services, as a basis for examining a number of issues in the ADEnet Project. Looked at from the perspective of most distance and open learning students and community users, network access is definable as the process of finding a network peer computer with dialup facilities and obtaining permission to use it. Permission means that its operators give the aspiring user a valid login name and password. A network peer is a computer which has physical and logical connections to the Internet or one of its interconnected networks, which in Australia is AARNet. Physical connection refers to the physical layer in the ISO seven layer model, and logical connection to Internet means all higher layers, implemented through the TCP/IP protocol set for automated communication of data between computers.

This is a terse, specialised definition of access, such as may be used by network engineers. It is a definition which places the broader aspects of "access", such as whether the users are able to use their access productively for service purposes, and whether there are service providers available, into a different category of functions. The search for network access and the responses by access providers are very well illustrated by the large number of items appearing in the network newsgroup alt.internet.access.wanted, and less frequently in other newsgroups such as aus.comms and aus.aarnet. Very typically, there are two main classes of network access, related to the types of services available through that access provider, as described below, and there are other differentiations which may be applicable, such as the differences between ethernet or token ring local area network access to a host, and serial port modem or local area network access.

The significance of this specialised definition of network access is that it does summarise the core part of the ADEnet Project. ADEnet is concerned with network access, that is access to AARNet. All forms or levels of network services are provided by others through network peers, with just one important exception which concerns compliance with network security expectations. The project shows how it is possible to separate or integrate the provision of access and the provision of services in flexible ways which can adapt to local opportunities. In circumstances such as the project's Sydney and Melbourne sites, network access is all that is provided, mainly by dedicated equipment. In other circumstances, such as the Perth site at Murdoch University, the network access is wholly via shared resources and is mediated by a network peer, cleo.murdoch.edu.au, which can provide both services and access.

Network services is subject to a more complex definition. In general, users want services which are layered upon the TCP/IP protocol set and are usually named as email, news, ftp and telnet, although very few novice users and providers would be able to articulate their needs in terms of the basic or "technical layer" carriage of "services". For most, network services is usually a broad term, which may include areas such as support for enrolment in a formal education course, user support in the form of training and provision of user friendly interfaces, network information sources such as online library catalogues, information retrieval tools such as gopher, and so on. The ADEnet project is not concerned with the provision of network services, although there are very important interactions. For example, a high level of demand for services results in a high level of demand for access, which permits economies of scale, as illustrated by the major sites. With small sites, certain resources required for access are more economical if shared with resources for services, as for example is done with cleo.murdoch.edu.au.

The range of network services may be affected by differences in types of network access. ADEnet gives its users access to email, netnews, ftp (file transfer protocol) and telnet (remote login to a network peer). However, there is a growing number of network access providers which can offer email and netnews only. Typically, these providers are small businesses such as the Perth based Dialix, or members of APANA (Australian Public Access Network Association) which have purchased Mail Affiliate Memberships of AARNet (Saleeba, 1993; APANA, 1993). In nearly all cases their network services are confined to email and news only, because obtaining ftp and telnet capabilities would require a much more expensive payment to AARNet (minimum $5,000 pa compared with $1,000 pa). Whilst there are sound reasons for AARNet's policy, based on network traffic loads, it does inhibit the extent to which the small business and community organisation sectors can function as providers of network access.

The nature of network services is affected also by differences in types of network access. Within campus environments, the most prized form of access is by Ethernet connection of local hosts to one's own desktop. This permits use of a number of client server implementations which are very much more user friendly than the older style of serial port connection with terminal emulation software (Atkinson, 1992c). Users of modems via dialup connections are generally confined to serial port style interfaces which are not user friendly by modern standards. However, in the case of users who attend a local study centre, it would be very reasonable to aim for Ethernetted workstations to be available, given the great improvements in the cost and ease of local area networking in recent years.

Issues in the ADEnet project

Important continuing issues in the evolution of the ADEnet concept include

Maintenance, recurrent costs and depreciation

As a specially funded project, ADEnet does not have any recurrent income. The influence of this feature depends upon several types of estimates. With regard to maintenance for modern equipment, we can rely upon a "high MTBF" (mean time between failure). For example, a rack of 16 modems may encounter one or two failures within a certain number of years. For the purposes of analysing ADEnet costs, a conservative assumption has been made, that the useful life time will be four years. For example, in a rackmount one or two cards may fail and the redundant second power supply may come into use during the four year period, but the equipment will remain nearly entirely operational until at four years old it is regarded as "written off" (that is, depreciate to zero over four years and give the equipment to the site's host to use for any purpose it may have for it).

The project has not made any direct provision for the recurrent cost of indial lines, as it is reasonable to assume that nearly all traffic is outside business hours and thus is using PABX indial lines which would otherwise be idle, that is the marginal cost is small or near to zero. Also, the project has to some extent provided a contribution of capital funds for upgrading a site's telephone infrastructure, in a way which balances or partially balances commitments to recurrent expenses incurred by the site. Whilst reliance on marginal costs instead of full average cost for indials and other elements of infrastructure could be criticised as being a hidden cross subsidy from institutional DEET recurrent income, there are good precedents for marginal instead of average costing (for example, in offering a unit for the Open Learning Agency institutions are not required to recover any part of the average cost of an existing, DEET funded version of that unit). Site items such as space used and power are not included because for modern equipment these are very minor demands.

Admission of other users

One case concerning the admission of users other than students enrolled with the original eight Distance Education Centres has been discussed by the Project. The University of Wollongong does not have any local dialup access from Sydney to its campus network. In view of the very important contribution made by the Wollongong's Information Technology Services to the installations at the University Centre, and Wollongong's membership of the consortium which operates the Centre, it was agreed that staff and students from Wollongong may use the ADEnet facility. The necessary changes have been made to the Annex 3's menu. It is estimated that about 10% of the traffic load will be from University of Wollongong staff and students who live in the Sydney telephone district.

With that exception, the question of admitting other types of users has been deferred until after the completion of current jobs. This includes deferral of questions about the status of full fee paying distance education students (who in the meantime have unrestricted free access as if this is a service for which they have paid through their fees). In the case of the Perth site at Murdoch University, the over capacity which is nominally 1.5 modems is available for community users on an free experimental basis, as indicated in the section on this site, and an initial small number was accepted in June. Inquiries about the potential for the Dubbo TAFE site to attract community users on a fee paying basis have been initiated, although it is unlikely that outcomes will be known until well after the target date date for completing the project's expenditure, September 1993.

Defining and calculating costs of ADEnet access

A summary is given in Table 1. Whilst the average cost per port can be given with reasonable accuracy for the large sites, similar costs for small sites are less readily defined. This is because the accuracy of definition diminishes as the extent of resource sharing is increased. For example, the number of ports for the Murdoch site is an estimate which can be validated only by acquiring operational experience, and in the Dubbo TAFE site the cost of the ISDN semi permanent is apportioned to UNE and CSU instead of the Project.

Table 1: Costs per modem, telephone line and terminal server port

Site Site type Project expenditure No. of ports Average cost per port Estimated cost per hour per modem, telephone line, port (1)
Monash, Melbourne dedicated main site, Annex 3 server, existing AARNet, PABX 29,221 16 1,826 $0.76
Annex 3 has 16 unused ports.
University Centre, Sydney dedicated main site, Annex 3 server, existing AARNet, new PABX 33,558 16 2,097 $0.87
Annex 3 has 16 unused ports.
Murdoch University, Perth small site shared resource, Annex 3 server, local host, existing AARNet, PABX not useable 5,826 1.5 3,884 $1.62
Annex 3 has 20 unused ports. Approx. 1.5 modems for community users.
Dubbo TAFE small site inter-institutional, 3 Com server, PABX, 200 km to AARNet connection (2) 12,056 2 6,028 $2.51, plus cost of leased line to AARnet connection at CSU Bathurst. 3 Com has 8 unused ports.

Notes for Table 1

  1. As in Report September 1992, this calculation is based on the average use of each modem being 600 hours per year for a life of four years. As explained in the text, it does not include any provision for the recurrent cost of indial lines or maintenance.

  2. The recurrent cost for the ISDN semi permanent (see Budget) is not included in the amount of $2.51, because no estimates are available yet for the potentially high extent to which this cost could be offset by selling capacity to users other than ADEnet students. If 80% of the ISDN cost is recovered by sales, and the modems average 600 hours per year each for four years, then the per hour per modem cost including ISDN component of about $1.50 is about $4.
A number of further uncertainties in estimation of costs should be noted. For example, "Estimated cost per hour per modem, telephone line, port" is not necessarily the same as a "user pays" cost, because the range of "reasonable" values of the parameters is quite wide, and the network access provider could add a profit margin or give a cross subsidy from other sources of income. It is generally uncertain as to whether capital funds provided by the Commonwealth for specific projects should be regarded as some kind of "bank loan" to be repaid from earnings, or as capital which must generate its own funds to cover depreciation and maintenance, or as funds which are effectively much the same as recurrent funds in advance for a number of years.

Whether to apply user charges

As with the question of admitting other users, any reconsideration of user charges has been deferred until after the completion of current jobs, and the emergence of a clearer set of government and institutional policies in relation to fees. The Project has proceeded with a mission to reduce cost and other disadvantages in network access and network services, which inhibit distance education students to a greater extent than on campus students. Increases in costs for present day distance education students, who usually have to buy their own computers and modems whilst on campus students have free access to computer laboratories, would be resisted very firmly.

However, there is considerable scope for current students to benefit from resource sharing with other types of users who do pay fees. All sites could implement a form of charging by requiring an institution or other provider to pay for expansion of site capacity prior to acceptance of the new users by means of additions to terminal server menus or issue of new logins on local hosts where that is required.

Extending the geographic distribution of ADEnet

Essentially this is a matter of finding and developing additional small sites, as only Sydney and Melbourne have warranted large sites, under present day demand and the limits of funds and time for project management. Several ideas for small sites were foreshadowed in Report September 1992, and the detailed execution is described above. However, there is considerable scope for exploring further ideas, and for acquisition of operational experience and case studies which provide by far the soundest basis for extending the geographic reach of the ADEnet concept. Negotiations are progressing with the University of South Australia to explore the possibility for a site development similar to the Perth site at Murdoch University.

This project interacts with others. For example, Hedland College in the remote Pilbara region of WA has recently obtained Mail Affiliate Membership of AARNet, with most of the first year costs provided for by the DEET Communications Link Project. The College has made the following offer:

Date: Tue, 18 May 1993 15:10:00 -0500 (EST)
From: Robert Hart 
Subject: Email for External Students (Murdoch and others)
To: Roger Atkinson 

Hi Roger

I would like to offer Email facilities to external students of Murdoch
University (and other institutions also).
[procedural details omitted]
Finally, I am aware that we have students in the area completing studies
at Uni of Central Queensland, Monash (Gippsland) and Deakin. A contact
person for me at these places would be of use so that I can offer their
students the same facilities.

Many thanks.
Acknowledgment of the Hedland College offer included the following suggestions:
  1. Have a physical facilities plan. There could be two stages, the first being a PC or Mac in some accessible, semi-supervised location, for example the Library. The second is a number of modems for local dialup users, connecting direct to a host on your internal network, or through a terminal server.

  2. Have a business plan. This need not be immediate, because you can let in users at a nominal charge, warning them that it is experimental and that some form of user charging will come in later. Software for assessing user charges may be needed, or it may be possible to have a flat rate membership fee.

  3. Have a user management and user services plan. This covers matters like disk quotas, administering login names, helping with comms software, etc.

  4. Develop a body of experience within the College, to share around the load, some staff may specialise in certain aspects, need persons who keep up with the "network gossip" in newsgroups aus.aarnet, aus.comms, aus.education and others. Also, staff development within the College, use of user friendly email handling (POP, "Post Office Protocol" running on the host, with POP clients such as POPMail for DOS or Eudora Mac).

Refining and diversifying models for small centres

As indicated in the extracts from Hedland College email exchanges, a considerable amount of development time and effort will be required to fully capitalise on the progress which has been achieved to date. A number of reasons for higher costs per port at small centres have been outlined above. With further experimentation and case study experience, it should be possible to refine and diversify the small site models. There seems to be no really effective substitute for project experience when seeking to define and implement technology based services for distance education and open learning.

Emergence of a variety of providers of public network access

The expanding range of providers of public network access includes small business, community based organisations, institutions (for example, Archee, 1993; Saleeba, 1993). Prospective new providers or organisers of network access include consortia such as the Wollongong Graduate Consortium and Open Learning Agency of Australia. A complete review of this important area is beyond the scope and deadlines for this report, and will be given at a later date in other publications and newsgroup items. Unfortunately, the recent report Electronic facilities network to enhance tertiary open learning services (Moran, Hont, Calvert and Bottomley, 1993) was not available at Murdoch External Studies until 29 June and detailed comment cannot be made until a later date.

In metropolitan and large regional centres, a number of providers of network access may cater for different types of users, or compete with one another for clients, but in rural and remote districts it is likely that a single provider must be organised in order to achieve viable access to the network. This is due to economy of scale considerations, and to the need for a high degree of aggregation of traffic to achieve a reasonably high rate of utilisation of a channel to AARNet, such as the ISDN semi permanent between Dubbo TAFE and CSU Bathurst.

AARNet's policies

AARNet has adopted an encouraging stance towards distance education and open learning. For example, the following is an extract from Networkshop '93 publicity:
From: C.Chaundy@its.unimelb.EDU.AU
Newsgroups: aus.comms
Subject: Preliminary Notice: Networkshop '93
Date: 29 Jun 93 11:08:53 +1000
Networkshop '93, the national AARNet conference, will be held in the World
Congress Centre, Melbourne, from November 30th - December 3rd 1993.

The conference is being supported by the AVCC through the AARNet Board 
of Management and is being organised by the Victorian institutions.

The theme for 1993 has been chosen as "Access for the 90's" in reflection 
of the growing importance of the national academic and research network 
in all facets of tertiary education, from supercomputing to distributed 
information resources, systems development, distance education, open 
learning and peer networking.

It is planned to broaden the appeal and scope of the conference, in
supporting multiple streams in each of the following topical areas

Networking in the 1990s - architectures, engineering, protocols, security

Information Resources - distributed collections, access methods, WAIS, Gopher.

Distance Education & Open Learning - distributed learning, access, resources

Facilities - supercomputers, industry focus, data stores, teleconferencing, 
licencing and copyright
However, there are uncertainties about the extent to which AARNet can facilitate solutions to the problems of small sites and accommodate the general move towards a greater extent of "user pays" strategies. For example, the following extract from another email exchange illustrates some features of current debates:
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 93 19:46:09 WST
To: barrie@deakin.edu.au, Robin.Erskine@anu.edu.au
From: atkinson@cleo.murdoch.edu.au (Roger Atkinson)
Subject: Re: Access to local facilities by foreign students
Cc: howse@csuvax1.murdoch.edu.au, C.Warren@deakin.edu.au, 
doug@giaeb.cc.monash.edu.au, Neil.Clarke@cc.monash.edu.au, 
Keith.Heale@cc.monash.edu.au, jcs@vaxc.cc.monash.edu.au, 
Jim_McKee@central-gw.uow.edu.au, r.hand@uow.edu.au, 
mjmahony@templar.une.edu.au, slatham@csunb.mit.csu.edu.au, 
cuskellye@topaz.ucq.edu.au, timmins@helios.usq.edu.au, 
lockwoodj@schulz.unisa.edu.au, mcdonald@schulz.unisa.edu.au

Robin and Barrie, the email concerning the ADEnet project has been
forwarded to me. A full description of the project may be obtained by anon
ftp to cleo.murdoch.edu.au, directory /pub/Res-andDev, filenames
ADEnet_Rept.txt or ADEnet_Rept.MacWord.bin. This is the report to DEET made
last year, and a supplementary report will be placed on Cleo sometime
before 30 June. Hopefully this will clarify the nature and status of the
[some details and quotes from previous email omitted]
The ADEnet Project caters for only a modest part of the demand from just
one group, external students enrolled with the DECs. What about the demand
from internal students, from students in new types of fee paying distance
education students (Open Learning Agency of Australia), and from staff who
are temporarily located in some other city or centre? Maybe it's time for
another full scale debate on strategies for providing network access. There
is a wide range of possibilities, and different solutions may emerge to
suit differing regional circumstances. 

There is one particular strategy which I want to flag for future attention.
There is a steadily increasing number of "private" providers of access to
AARNet, such as members of APANA, Pegasus and Dialix, although the scene is
not as diverse as its counterpart in the USA. Unfortunately, most of these
providers have Mail Affiliate Membership only. Three issues could become
quite significant. Firstly, should universities enter into competition with
the private providers? For example, I've been told that Sydney University
charges its students $200 p.a. for AARNet access, and $300 p.a. for outside
persons or organisations. Secondly, should AARNet encourage small scale
private providers who undertake to support student users, by reducing the
annual charge for Network Affiliate Membership at the lowest speed
categories (details on Affiliate Membership may be obtained by anon ftp to
aarnet.edu.au)? At present APANA and similar providers have to pay $1,000
p.a. for the lowest speed mail and news only access, but it's an
unaffordable $5,000 p.a. for the lowest speed full service access (mail,
news, ftp, telnet). Thirdly, should universities offload part of the
student demand onto private providers so that students have to pay their
own way, or should universities charge fees to students for network access
in order to fund operations, or should universities continue to provide
free access but you are unable to find a modem not continuously engaged?

Further recommendations from the project

  1. The Project's remaining funds amounting to $7,813 shall be used for a small site. Initial discussions are in progress with the University of South Australia concerning the possibility of an Adelaide site similar to the Perth site, although no commitment has been finalised. Completion of the project is expected by about September 1993.

  2. A considerable amount of development time and effort will be required to fully capitalise on the progress which has been achieved to date. With further experimentation and case study experience, it should be possible to refine and diversify the small site models. A series of small projects with funding allocated by competitive grants (for example, as is done with National Teaching Development Grants) may be more economical and effective than a single large project.

  3. Small sites in regional and rural centres should be encouraged to develop a role as local community providers of network access on a subscription basis, in order to help pay for the high costs of leased lines to the nearest AARNet connected campus by aggregating traffic into a larger volume per line. In rural and remote districts it is likely that a single provider must be organised in order to achieve viable access to the network, in contrast to major centres where network access may become subject to competition between providers.

  4. The ADEnet approach illustrates ways to separate the provision of network access and the provision of network services. For example, each ADEnet site serves a number of distance education providers. In the trend towards competitive, deregulated markets, such separation of network access and services markets should be sustained to promote efficient use of resources.

Summary of Supplementary Report

During the period September 1992 to June 1993 the Project progressed towards the installation of DPX 225 rackmount modems at the University Centre Sydney and Monash University Melbourne sites, but encountered considerable delays in delivery from Dataplex. However, a firm delivery date of 27 July has been given.

The Project has developed two types of small site. The site at Murdoch University which is now operational is based upon sharing of a modem pool and Annex 3 server with Murdoch users, and a network host Cleo to provide user authentication. The agreement with Murdoch University provided for the Project to fund a capacity approximately twice as large as that required for ADEnet users, in order to compensate Murdoch for the extra work involved in administering login names and passwords for Cleo. The second type of small site is at Dubbo TAFE, where the basis is Project funding for the capital expenditure, University of New England and Charles Sturt University funding for the recurrent costs of a leased line to the nearest existing AARNet connected campus at CSU Bathurst, and NSW TAFE provision of study centre accommodation and telephone lines.

Capital costs per port are in the range $1,800 - $2,100 for a large site with dedicated modems and terminal servers but sharing PABX lines and AARNet connection, about $3,900 for a small site with shared facilities, and about $6,000 for a small site in which an existing AARNet access is not available. Recurrent costs per port are minor for large sites and for small sites with shared facilities, although this characterisation depends on the extent to which an institution will accept extra capital for dialup facilities to offset some acceptance of recurrent costs. For a small site with no existing AARNet access, recurrent costs are high owing to the need for an expensive leased line to an AARNet connected campus, although there are good prospects for the introduction of community and small business users whose subscriptions would help defray that cost. For this reason rural and remote districts should encourage network traffic aggregation and the emergence of a single local provider, in order to have the best chances for achieving viable access.

From the Project's grant of $90,900 and interest earnings $3,574, an amount of $7,813 remains after expenditure on Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Dubbo TAFE sites. Initial discussions are in progress with the University of South Australia concerning the possibility of an Adelaide site similar to the Perth site, although no commitment has been finalised. Completion of the ADEnet project is expected to be in September 1993.


Neil Clarke, Network Services Head, and staff at Monash University Computer Centre conducted extensive testing on Dataplex DPX 225 rackmount modems. The concept, design and participation for the Dubbo TAFE site were negotiated by Sylvia Latham, User Services Manager, Charles Sturt University, and the assistance of Mary Jane Mahony, UNE Orange Campus is acknowledged. Negotiations and installation work for Cleo and the Perth site were facilitated by the cooperation of John Horgan, Network Manager (currently Acting Director), Eugene Formato, Network Engineer, Neil Huck, User Services, and Peter Sumner, Director, Computer Services Unit. Bruce Robertson of ITS, University of Wollongong, collected statistical data on the performance of the University Centre site, and the Centre's Manager Ray Hand has provided helpful support for the project.


Archee, R. (1993). Jacking into the Internet. Your Computer, 78-80, May 1993.

Atkinson, R. (1992a). ADEnet: A national project to achieve low cost access to computing resources for distance students. Report by the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium to the Department of Employment, Education and Training on a National Priority (Reserve) Fund grant. Perth: Murdoch University External Studies Unit. http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/projects/adenet-nprf-rept92.html

Atkinson, R. (1992b). Statement for DEET dated 29 November 1992.

Atkinson, R. (1992). Some developments in computer mediated communications. In J. Herrington (ed), Distance education: Future visions, p51-74. Perth: WADEC. http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/devcmc92/devcmc92.html

Atkinson, R. (1992). Applications of AARNet computer networking in vocational education and training. In What future for technical and vocational education and training?. Proceedings, Conference of the NVCER, Melbourne, 14-18 December, Vol 2, p.1-14. Adelaide: NCVER. http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/confs/tafe-conf92.html

Atkinson, R. (1992). The National Educational Communications Framework: Analysing the question of common technical specifications. In Hedberg, J. & Steele, J. (eds), Educational technology for the clever country, 175-188. Selected papers from EdTech 92, 1992 Conference of the Australian Society for Educational Technology. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.ascilite.org.au/aset-archives/confs/edtech92/atkinson.html

APANA (Australian Public Access Network Association) (1993). Information release 8/2/93. (Regularly posted to aus.aarnet, aus.comms and other newsgroups).

AVCC (Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee) (1992). AARNet Business Plan. Report presented to AVCC Executive Meeting 3/92.

Juddery, B. (1993). Getting down to the business of AARNet. Campus Review, p.11, June 24-30.

Le Roux, G. (1993). Desktop TCP/IP - a flexible alternative. Australian Communications, April, 95-102.

Moran, L., Hont, J., Calvert, J. and Bottomley, J. (1993). Electronic facilities network to enhance tertiary open learning services. Report of a project conducted for the Australian Department of Employment, Education and Training by Deakin University in collaboration with Strategic Technology Management Pty Ltd. Preprint copy, May 1993. Geelong: Deakin University.

Saleeba, Z. (1993). Australian Public Network Access FAQ. Release version 1.1 - 93/05/31. Item posted by zik@zikzak.apana.org.au to Newsgroups: aus.general, aus.aarnet. Date: 31 May 1993 13:36:21 +1000


Dr Roger Atkinson
Acting Director of External Studies
Murdoch University, Murdoch Western Australia 6150.
Tel (09) 360 2240. Fax (09) 310 4929.
AARNet: atkinson@cleo.murdoch.edu.au
Video conferencing: 09 333 6000/1

12 July 1993

[ADEnet reports and references] [ADEnet Home] [Ed Tech] [TLC Home]
Original created: June 93. HTML version: 16 May 99.
Author: Roger Atkinson [atkinson@cleo.murdoch.edu.au]
This URL: http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/projects/adenet-nprf-supp-rept93.html
Previous URL: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/edtech/net_access/reports/adenet-rept2.html