QUDIT History: QUESTnet & QRNO
The current Queensland University Directors of Information Technology (QUDIT) organisation was established on 25 November 2014 as a merger of the former Queensland Regional Network Organisation (QRNO) and Queensland Education, Science and Technology Network (QUESTnet) organisations. The merger and re-branding signaled the intent to widen the scope of collaboration beyond the historical emphasis on ICT networks (QRNO) and staff development (QUESTnet).
Prior to the merger, both QRNO and QUESTnet had similar membership – the research and higher education organisations with a strong presence in Queensland.
In the early 1990’s, QUESTnet arose as an informal collaborative forum of the universities in Queensland for network developments. The universities had to develop the knowledge and skills of own staff in these technologies. Establishing data communication networks across large distances was a relatively new field of endeavour. A series of technical meetings, forums and workshops were arranged to train University staff. The staff development forums became the annual “QUESTnet Winter Workshop” which, in turn, grew into the QUESTnet Annual Conference, run since 1994. QUESTnet became the informal umbrella group for the development of inter-University networks during the 1990’s.
The earliest records of a QUESTnet meeting are dated 13 May 1993. Alan Coulter (UQ) was chair and the meeting hosted a visit from Geoff Huston who had been recently appointed General Manager of AARNet. Topics of the day included rationalization of microwave communication links, the relationship between QUESTnet and AARNet, planning for the Winter Workshop (QUESTnet’93) and the establishment of “SERT” – the Australian Security Emergency Response Team. A draft agenda for the 1993 conference held topics such as:
- Authenticated Dial-In (QUT);
- Encounters with a CDROM network.
By 1999, the development, operation and maintenance of the intra-university networks had become a major activity and the need for development of staff knowledge and skills widened dramatically with the Universities still taking a lead in developing advanced network applications. After some consideration the Universities decided to split the ICT network function of QUESTnet into a separate organisation. The network development work was held within the University framework under the banner of the Queensland Regional Network Organisation (QRNO). In July 2001 QUESTnet was set up as a separate group with its own constitution and finances to expand the role of staff development and develop other areas of common interest.
The annual QUESTnet conference developed into one of the premier ICT conferences in Australia for professionals working in the Higher Education and Research sector. It attracts in excess of 350 ICT practitioners and vendors from across Australia, who are engaged in ICT infrastructure solutions in the higher education and research sector. Like the earlier workshops, each conference is organised by one of the Universities and is run on a break-even basis. It always focuses on staff development, with hands-on workshops, as well as papers from invited overseas and local speakers. The conference is strongly supported by the University ICT sector in Australia, AARNet Pty Ltd (APL), the company that operates Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet), and the ICT industry which assists with sponsorships to help keep costs down.
The History of Conferences:
|1994||USQ||USQ, Toowoomba||Networking Queensland's Information Services|
|1995||Bond||Bond Uni, Robina|
|1996||JCU||JCU, Townsville||The Conference for Network Managers and Practitioners|
|1997||Griffith||Griffith Uni, Nathan||Networking about Networking - The National Conference for Information and Networking Professionals|
|1998||CQU||Capricorn International Resort, Yeppoon||Networking for Flexible Delivery|
|1999||QUT||Hyatt Coolum, Coolum Beach||The Business of Networking|
|2000||USQ||USQ, Toowoomba||Telecommunications Across the Range|
|2001||UQ||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||A Network Odyssey|
|2002||SCU||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||Networks Across Borders|
|2003||Griffith||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||Securing the Future|
|2004||JCU||Cairns International Hotel, Cairns||Networking Far and Wide|
|2005||ACU||Hyatt Coolum, Coolum Beach||Yesterday, today and Tomorrow: Building IT, Managing IT and Extending IT|
|2006||USC||Hyatt Coolum, Coolum Beach||Networking for e-Research: Communication, Collaboration and Regional Engagement|
|2007||CQU||Cairns International Hotel, Cairns||Networking for e-Research: Communication, Collaboration and Regional Engagement|
|2008||QUT||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||Social Engineering your Network|
|2009||USQ||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||Leveraging Our Investment|
|2010||Griffith||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||2010: The Network Makes Contact|
|2011||UQ||Jupiters Hotel & Casino, Gold Coast||Preparing for the Next Big Wave|
|2012||JCU||Pullman Reef Hotel, Cairns||To infinity and beyond - Ubiquitous communications|
|2013||ACU||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||Clouds: In our way or enabling change?|
|2014||QUT||Brisbane Convention & Entertainment Centre||Transforming Outcomes for the Real World|
|2015||Griifith||Gold Coast Convention & Entertainment Centre||Create, Connect, Consume (combined with THETA Conference)|
|2016||UQ||Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast||Technology supporting innovation|
In addition to holding the annual conference, QUESTnet has run a range of workshops. These typically acted as a forum to share and refine best practices in identified priority areas. The usual approach was to have member representatives outline their approach to and experiences with a particular topic e.g. internet volume measuring & charging; or upgrading major software platforms, etc.
As outlined above, when QRNO was first established, it was the vehicle for continuing the development of network connectivity for its members.
In 2002 the federal Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) established the Higher Education Bandwidth Advisory Committee (HEBAC) to review the needs for high bandwidth communication links for research. Members provided input to the QRNO report submitted to HEBAC. Key elements of the QRNO report were included in the HEBAC report to DEST and resulted in a federal government grant of $5.5M to QRNO to fund the first stage development to connect regional Universities. This submission led to the implementation of high bandwidth fibre services to Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, James Cook University in Townsville, and Grangenet PoPs in Brisbane.
QRNO continued to play an important role as a vehicle for attracting government funding where it was necessary to demonstrate a high degree of collaboration and sharing of benefits across multiple organisations. More recent examples include:
- 2012: $2M, Brisbane Outer Metropolitan Ring Stage 1 – fibre build: Qld Centre for Advanced technologies (Pullenvale) to the then UQ Ipswich Campuses (now USQ);
- 2012: $2.5M; NRN Sunshine Backbone (Brisbane – Cairns) Tails: connecting Mackay, Townsville, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Palmwoods (USC).
- 2014: $0.5M; Brisbane Outer Metropolitan Ring Stage 2 – fibre build: QUT Kelvin Grove to Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, then to NetxtGen data centre Fortitude Valley (AARNet Optical Point of Presence);
- 2014: $1.5M; Sunshine Backbone (Brisbane – Cairns) Upgrade – upgrade the Sunshine Backbone capacity to 100Gbps;
As the network development function shifted to AARNet (the Australian universities’ telco), QRNO continued as a vehicle for collaborative projects in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
The most significant collaborative project undertaken by QRNO was the establishment of the wireless eduroam service within Queensland health precincts. Initial collaborators were the Mater Private Hospital and the Queensland State Government Health Department. At the time of writing (Q1 2016), this project has developed into a production-strength service offered across all major hospitals in the state, and catering for more than 2000 unique user connections per day.
At the time of writing (Q1 2016), the work of QRNO continues via the QUDIT organisation. Efforts are directed toward expanding the health precinct deployment of eduroam into the UnitingCare Health and Ramsay private hospitals, and also trialling the use of eduroam in schools.