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TUCoPS :: Antique Systems :: csnet.txt

CSNet Hacking

CSNET.  Establishment of a network for computer science research was first
suggested in 1974, by the NSF advisory committee for computer science.  The
objective of the network would be to support collaboration among researchers,
provide research sharing, and, in particular, support isolated researchers in
the smaller universities.
     In the spring of 1980, CSNET [Computer Science Network], was defined and
proposed to NSF as a logical network made up of several physical networks of
various power, performance, and cost.  NSF responded with a five year contract
for development of the network under the condition that CSNET was to be
financially self-supporting by 1986.  Initially CSNET was a network with five
major components -- ARPANET, Phonenet (a telephone based message relaying
service), X25Net (suppose for the TCP-IP Protocol suite over X.25-based public
data networks), a public host (a centralized mail service), and a name server
(an online database of CSNET users to support transparent mail services).  The
common service provided across all these networks is electronic mail, which is
integrated at a special service host, which acts as an electronic mail relay
between the component networks. Thus CSNET users can send electronic mail to
all ARPANET users and vice-versa.  CSNET, with DARPA support, installed
ARPANET connections at the CSNET development sites at the universities of
Delaware and Wisconsin and Purdue University.
     In 1981, Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN) contracted to provide technical
and user services and to operate the CSNET Coordination and Information Center.
In 1983, general management of CSNET was assumed by UCAR [the Univ. Corporation
for Atmospheric Research], with a subcontract to BBN.  Since then, CSNET has
grown rapidly and is currently an independent, financially stable, and
professionally managed service to the computer research community.  However,
the momentum created by CSNET's initial success caused the broad community
support it now enjoys.  More than 165 university, industrial, and government
computer research groups now belong to CSNET.
     A number of lessons may be learned from the CSNET experience.
1)  The network is now financially self-sufficient, showing that a research is
willing to pay for the benefits of a networking service. (Users pay usage
charges plus membership fees ranging from $2000 for small computer science
departments to $30,000 for the larger industrial members.)
2)  While considerable benefits are available to researchers from simple
electronic mail and mailing list services -- the Phonenet service -- most
researchers want the much higher level of performance and service provided by
3)  Providing a customer support and information service is crucial to the
success of a network, even (or perhaps especially) when the users are themselves sophisticated computer science professionals.  Lessons from the
CSNET experience will provide valuable input to the design, implementation,
provision of user services, and operation and management of NSFnet, and, in
particular, to the development of the appropriate funding model for NSFnet.
     CSNET, with support from the NSFnet program, is now developing the CYPRESS
project which is examining ways in which the level of CSNET service may be
improved, at low cost, to research departments.  CYPRESS will use the DARPA
protocol suite and provide ARPANET-like service on low-speed 9600-bit-per-
second leased line telephone links.  The network will use a nearest neighbor
topology, modeled on BITNET, while providing a higher level of service to users
and a higher level of interoperability with the ARPANET. The CYPRESS project is
designed to replace or supplement CSNET use of the X.25 public networks, which
has proved excessively expensive.  This approach may also be used to provide a
low-cost connection to NSFnet for smaller campuses.

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