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RMDCN upgrade nears completion

Tony Bakker
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The Regional Meteorological Data Communication Network (RMDCN) is currently nearing completion of an upgrade of the connections of many sites following negotiations between ECMWF and Interoute Communications Ltd in 2016 as part of a technical and commercial refresh exercise.

The RMDCN provides a computer network infrastructure for the meteorological community in World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Region VI and beyond. It was set up in 2000 and provides any-to-any connectivity between more than 50 sites (Figure 1). Among other things, the RMDCN serves to ensure the secure and timely delivery of ECMWF forecasts to its Member States and the exchange of meteorological observations between connected sites. In the framework of the WMO/ECMWF agreement on the RMDCN, the ECMWF project team manages the network and monitors the Quality of Service on a 24-hour basis for all participating centres.

Figure 1
Figure 1 Currently 55 sites are connected to the RMDCN network. The shaded countries indicate ECMWF Member and Co-operating States.

Upgrade requirements

ECMWF’s contract with Interoute Communications Ltd, authorised by the Council in December 2012, covers a nine-year term with the option to break after six years. To ensure ongoing value for money during this period, technical and commercial refresh (TCR) exercises are undertaken at 2½ and 5½ years following the start of the operational service on 30 June 2013. As part of the first of these TCR exercises, various elements of the service were reviewed according to technical and commercial criteria and overall value for money.

In order to support ECMWF in this process, the ECMWF Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) at its 47th session on 15 and 16 October 2015 established a subgroup on the RMDCN with Graham Mallin (United Kingdom) as Convener and with the following terms of reference:

  1. to assist ECMWF with the specification of technical requirements to be considered for the Technical and Commercial Refresh of the RMDCN contract with Interoute;
  2. to assist ECMWF in reviewing Interoute’s offer for the Technical and Commercial Refresh;
  3. to comment on any contractual changes required to implement the outcome of the Technical and Commercial Refresh;
  4. to involve WMO/Regional Association VI and the WMO Secretariat as observers in the subgroup, as appropriate.

ECMWF, with the assistance of the TAC Subgroup, discussed various technical options to be included in the TCR, such as Internet backup (i.e. DMVPN), Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), Multicast, and Cloud Computing. It also reviewed the ECMWF-funded RMDCN Basic Package for ECMWF Member States. During the lifetime of the RMDCN, the Basic Package speed for ECMWF Member States has doubled roughly every three years while keeping the monthly recurring charges the same. When the Interoute service was deployed in 2013, the Basic Package was a Platinum service type with a 4 Mbps connection, which was a doubling of the speed compared to the Basic Package provided by the previous supplier, Orange Business Services Ltd. An upgrade of the Basic Package with a doubling of the speed to 8 Mbps while maintaining the current monthly charge was therefore in line with established practice concerning upgrades of the Basic Package.

The TAC Subgroup agreed on the following set of requirements for Interoute to review:

  • investigate the current technical deployment of the network and report on any potential improvements (e.g. IPv6)
  • investigate and propose the deployment of an IP multicast solution to meet a EUMETSAT requirement
  • investigate and propose the deployment of an Internet backup solution to replace the current DMVPN pilot
  • provide information on Interoute’s cloud service portfolio available within the RMDCN footprint
  • investigate the current monthly recurring charges for all sites and make proposals for both price reductions and increased bandwidth at the current charges
  • provide pricing for an upgrade to 8 Mbps for ECMWF Member States where applicable.

All sites with unchanged configuration since the Operational Commencement Date (30 June 2013) were offered a discount of at least the minimum level as defined in the TCR clause of the contract. Discounts apply to the charges for Interoute service elements and exclude underlying access circuits.

Towards implementation

Following the receipt of Interoute’s opening offer, ECMWF commissioned the consultancy The Network Collective (TNC) to conduct an assessment of Interoute’s offer in the current market. Their findings can be summarized as follows:

  • Overall the offer sits very comfortably in the lower to middle of TNC’s market spread, so whilst there is room for improvement compared to some suppliers, it is nevertheless a relatively competitive deal and would beat much of the market.
  • Due to the nature of the benchmarking clause within ECMWF’s contract with Interoute, the focus for ECMWF should be on those elements considered to be materially out of sync with current market pricing.
  • Commercially the areas in which to optimise pricing are China, Australia and, to a lesser extent, Japan. There are also more minor concerns for pricing in Italy, Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and EUMETSAT’s connection in Germany.

ECMWF contacted Interoute and discussed the report. Interoute acknowledged the findings and was able to address most areas of concern. In addition to Interoute’s TCR offer, the TAC Subgroup also discussed the term of the contract between ECMWF and Interoute. The contract with Interoute is for a nine-year term with a break clause at year six (Table 1).

 

Timeline

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Full contract

Nine-year full contract term

End of year 6 break clause

Six-year fixed contract terms

Break clause option
to full contract

Technology cycle

RMDCN three-year
technology cycle

RMDCN three-year
technology cycle

RMDCN three-year
technology cycle

Table 1 The full RMDCN contract term is nine years but a break clause enables termination of the contract after six years. 

 

The break clause was agreed in order to allow termination of the contract if the TCR did not show value for money for the service. Given the long lead time required to start a tendering process, preparation for this would have to start in early 2017 if it was decided to execute the break clause. The TNC report reassured the TAC Subgroup that the contract is still “a competitive deal and would beat much of the market”. In addition, the RMDCN Operations Committee reported in the 22nd Operations Committee meeting that they were very content with the service provided by Interoute and the high level of service availability during the first 2½ years of service.

The TAC Subgroup on the RMDCN met on 20 and 21 September 2016 and concluded that:

  1. The price/performance of Interoute’s offer is a good package and represents value for money for the RMDCN community as a whole.
  2. The existing contract may be amended at an appropriate point in the future as additional services become sufficiently mature for inclusion in the RMDCN, for example DMVPN.
  3. Access to the RMDCN from Cloud Computing systems should be subject to a design and security review to avoid adverse impact on the RMDCN operational service.
  4. ECMWF should continue with the following actions independently of the TAC Subgroup:
    1. request that RMDCN user sites which have been offered a choice between a discount and an increase in bandwidth respond to this offer and identify their required changes to the current service based on this offer;
    2. consult with the RMDCN community to establish requirements for a 24/7 operational DMVPN service provided by Interoute and take forward development of this service;
    3. support EUMETSAT and Interoute in discussing potential solutions based on EUMETSAT’s requirements for a Multicast service on the RMDCN;
    4. review Contract Clause 11 with a view to establishing a clearer framework for future service changes based on market rates.

The Subgroup recommended to the TAC that the service should continue for the full nine-year term, that the break clause should not be executed, and that preparations for returning to the market be initiated by the TAC in 2019. During its 48th session from 13 to 14 October 2016, the TAC unanimously endorsed the conclusions of its Subgroup on the RMDCN.

Implementation

ECMWF then started the process of implementing the conclusions of the TAC Subgroup, beginning with gathering the wishes from RMDCN members for either a discount or an upgrade of their connection. Of the 55 sites connected to the RMDCN, 19 sites opted for an upgrade of their connection speed and 23 sites opted for a discount on the monthly charge. For 12 sites there was no change as they had either changed their configuration after the Operational Commencement Date or connected to the RMDCN after this date. One site (USA) decided to terminate its connection to the RMDCN.

Once this was done the change orders were raised with Interoute by the end of December 2016. Monthly charge discounts were backdated to 13 September 2016, when Interoute’s original offer was made. Some sites requested additional upgrade requirements beyond what was presented in the TCR offer from Interoute. By 1 September 2017 about half of the upgrades had been completed with the remaining sites scheduled to be upgraded within the following few weeks. The overall delivery process of the TCR has taken much longer than expected. Discussions are taking place with Interoute to review the TCR and delivery issues.

The overall operational performance of the network remains very high, achieving 100% global availability for 10 of the last 12 months of service. In late September 2017 the 23rd RMDCN Operating Committee Meeting took place. This gave the whole user community an opportunity to discuss and reflect on this TCR exercise and discuss with The Network Collective consultancy the future of the service in general.

Table 2 shows the current configuration of the connected sites, with the bandwidth column showing the current speed in Mbps. The TCR upgrade column shows which option each site selected.

Outlook

Following the decision to continue for the full nine-year term, the contract with Interoute will now terminate on 30 June 2022. This means that a second TCR of the service will take place in late 2018 to early 2019 for implementation by mid-2019. Following this second review, ECMWF and the RMDCN community will have to start discussions on the future of the RMDCN beyond 2022.

One of the key changes that will take place in the near future is the move of the ECMWF data centre to Bologna, which means that ECMWF’s RMDCN connection will move to Bologna as well. The move of the RMDCN connection to Bologna is scheduled for late 2019.

Questions about the Technical and Commercial Refresh or any other aspect of the RMDCN service can be sent to ECMWF’s service manager, Tony Bakker, at rmdcn@ecmwf.int.

 

Country/Site

City

WMO GTS

WMO WIS

Bandwidth (Mbps)

Site Type

Joined Interoute service

TCR upgrade (Mbps)

ECMWF Member States & ECMWF

Austria

Vienna

RTH

 

10

Gold

May 2013

From 8 to 10

Belgium

Brussels

NMC

 

10

Platinum

May 2013

Discount

Croatia

Zagreb

NMC

 

8

Gold

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Denmark

Copenhagen

NMC

 

50

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Finland

Helsinki

NMC

 

50

Platinum

Jan 2014

No change

France

Toulouse

RTH

GISC

100

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Germany

Offenbach

RTH

GISC

50

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Germany-DR

Berlin

 

 

N/A

Iron-B

Mar 2016

Discount

Greece

Athens

NMC

 

4

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Iceland

Reykjavik

NMC

 

2

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 2 to 5

Ireland

Dublin

NMC

 

100

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Italy

Rome

RTH

 

15

Gold

Jan 2014

From 10 to 15

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

NMC

 

8

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Netherlands

De Bilt

NMC

 

8

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Netherlands-DR

Woensdrecht

 

 

4

Copper

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Norway

Oslo

NMC

 

25

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 20 to 25

Portugal

Lisbon

NMC

 

8

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Serbia

Belgrade

NMC

 

4

Gold

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Slovenia

Ljubljana

NMC

 

8

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Spain

Madrid

NMC

 

4

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 8

Sweden

Norrköping

RTH

 

10

Platinum

May 2013

Discount

Switzerland

Zurich

NMC

 

20

Platinum

Jan 2014

No change

Switzerland-CSCS

Lugano

 

 

20

Platinum

Jan 2014

No change

Turkey

Ankara

NMC

 

34

Platinum

Jan 2014

No change

United Kingdom

Exeter

RTH

GISC

20

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

ECMWF

Reading

WMC

 

500

Platinum

May 2013

No change

Country/Site

City

WMO GTS

WMO WIS

Bandwidth (Mbps)

Site Type

Joined Interoute service

TCR upgrade (Mbps)

ECMWF Co-operating States & EUMETSAT

Bulgaria

Sofia

RTH

 

10

Silver

May 2013

Discount

Czech Republic

Prague

RTH

 

7

Gold

Jan 2014

Discount

Estonia

Tallinn

NMC

 

2

Silver

Jan 2014

Discount

EUMETSAT

Darmstadt

 

 

20

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Hungary

Budapest

NMC

 

8

Platinum

Jan 2014

No change

Israel

Bet Dagan

NMC

 

15

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 10 to 15

Latvia

Riga

NMC

 

2

Silver

Jan 2014

From 1 to 2

Lithuania

Vilnius

NMC

 

1

Silver

Jan 2014

Discount

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Skopje

NMC

 

N/A

Iron B

Jan 2014

No change

Morocco

Casablanca

NMC

GISC

2

Bronze

Jan 2014

Discount

Romania

Bucharest

NMC

 

15

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 10 to 15

Slovakia

Bratislava

NMC

 

1

Gold

Jan 2014

Discount

Country/Site

City

WMO GTS

WMO WIS

Bandwidth (Mbps)

Site Type

Joined Interoute service

TCR upgrade (Mbps)

Other RMDCN Members

Algeria

Algiers

NMC

 

N/A

Iron B

Mar 2017

No change

Australia

Melbourne

WMC

GISC

4

Platinum

May 2014

Discount

Azerbaijan

Baku

NMC

 

2

Copper

Jul 2017

No change

Canada

Dorval

NMC

 

2

Copper

Jan 2014

Discount

China

Beijing

RTH

GISC

16

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

China-DR

Beijing

 

 

16

Copper

Apr 2015

No change

India

New Delhi

RTH

GISC

6

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 6

Japan

Tokyo

RTH

GISC

10

Platinum

May 2013

Discount

Japan-DR

Osaka

 

 

10

Copper

Dec 2014

Discount

Jordan

Amman

NMC

 

1

Iron A

Jan 2014

No change

Poland

Warsaw

NMC

 

1

Silver

Jan 2014

Discount

Russian Federation

Moscow

WMC

GISC

10

Platinum

Jan 2014

Discount

Saudi Arabia

Jeddah

RTH

GISC

2

Bronze

Aug 2014

From 2 to 4

South Africa

Pretoria

RTH

GISC

4

Bronze

Jan 2014

From 2 to 4 (primary only)

South Korea

Seoul

NMC

GISC

4

Platinum

Jan 2014

From 4 to 6

United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi

NMC

 

N/A

Iron B

Sep 2014

No change

United States of America

Washington

WMC

GISC

50

Platinum

Jan 2014

To be terminated Dec 17

Table 2 The current RMDCN configuration including the TCR upgrade as of 1 September 2017. Platinum, Gold and Silver site types have dual connectivity. Copper and Iron A/B site types have a single connection. N/A signifies an Internet connection of unknown speed.

Acronyms:

GTS = Global Telecommunication System
WIS = WMO Information System
RTH = Regional Telecommunication Hub
NMC = National Meteorological Centre
WMC = World Meteorological Centre
GISC = Global Information Systems Centre
DR = Disaster Recovery
CSCS = Swiss National Supercomputing Centre

 

doi:10.21957/5t18tb