Networks play a fundamental role in science and academia. They connect teaching and research institutions and provide advanced digital services that help researchers and students carry out research and join networks or access international resources.
Portugal has recently completed a process of upgrading, updating and increasing the capacity of its national research and education network, which is managed by the FCCNunit of the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).
The main objectives of the RCTS100 project, which was inaugurated last February, were to put an end to the digital inequalities that still existed between entities on the coast and parts of the interior of mainland Portugal, to replace the previous 10Gb/s technology with 100Gb/s technology, to improve the redundancy and resilience of the network and to develop and improve the various digital services made available over the network. With a total investment of 17.2 million euros, 13 of which came from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), it was an ambitious plan with demanding challenges.
During this period we have experienced the pandemic, in which digital networks have simultaneously excelled in supporting the economy and social contacts, but in which there have also been serious disruptions in the supply of equipment and significant increases in costs.
One of the main changes implemented by the RCTS100 project was the inclusion of improvements to the local networks of nine inland higher education institutions. It was an innovative process, in close collaboration with these entities, which fully achieved its objectives. It was thus possible to remove various obstacles so that the network's new potential could be properly exploited.
Internationally, the implementation of RCTS100 coincided with a project to improve the European GÉANT network and with the arrival in Portugal of the EllaLink submarine cable with Brazil. As a result, all national entities now have optimum communications conditions with their European and Latin American counterparts.
With this project, the national research and education network has become a world-class network, allowing researchers and the higher education community to use the information flows they need for their work processes without capacity constraints. There have been improved or new services, particularly in the area of support for science management and open science.
The future will involve building a science datacenter in the northern region. It will also be necessary to look for ways to improve connections with the autonomous regions, the last barrier to overcome in removing the digital inequalities of the science and education network managed by FCCN.