Annual report

2017

Connectivity, security and operational excellence: serving our customers more than ever

In 2017, Belnet, the Belgian National Research & Education Network (NREN), has continued to expand its offer to customers through evermore high-performance connectivity. The organization has successfully pursued several major projects in order to serve federal government departments, as well as its long-standing customers in research and education. Highlights, challenges, opportunities: things that are key to Jan Torreele, Belnet’s Director.

Interview with Jan Torreele

“As 2017 ends, I would like to pass on my sincerest thanks to all Belnet staff members, for their considerable efforts, which far surpass what we are entitled to expect from our employees. They have really helped us to achieve our targets! I would also like to thank our customers, for their trust and loyalty. More than a supplier, we seek to be a real partner, capable of developing solutions with them, which best meet their needs, offering them dedicated connectivity.”

Interview with Jan Torreele

“As 2017 ends, I would like to pass on my sincerest thanks to all Belnet staff members, for their considerable efforts, which far surpass what we are entitled to expect from our employees. They have really helped us to achieve our targets! I would also like to thank our customers, for their trust and loyalty. More than a supplier, we seek to be a real partner, capable of developing solutions with them, which best meet their needs, offering them dedicated connectivity.”

What were the highlights of 2017?

“We clarified strategic targets for 2017, with projects that defined the year: Belnet’s operational excellence, improvement in our ICT security, development of WANFIN (Wide Area Network) for the Federal Public Service (FPS) Finance, set-up of the fourth generation of the federal government department network, known as the Federal Metropolitan Area Network (FedMAN), implementation of govroam in FPS satellite offices, and internal consolidation of our organization.”

If you had to choose one event that defined the past year, what would it be?

“We pursued major projects for our customers: not only federal government departments, but also, of course, research and education, which are our primary raison d’être in the Belgian NREN. These projects are detailed in the coming pages. But, in particular, I should stress the effort put into further reinforcing our operational excellence. This is vital and gives all of our projects meaning.”

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More specifically, what have you set up?

“In 2016, we were faced with technical incidents, unforeseen system failures. Our technical teams put a great deal of energy into restoring the operational excellence and stability for which our network is renowned. We also reinforced a series of internal measures, in terms of IT services management, tracking providers, project management etc. Twenty years ago, the Internet was marginal and crashes were considered the norm. Nowadays, our customers, and society in general, see their connectivity as critical. Their network access cannot be interrupted, or serious problems will be caused to the way they operate. So, our aim, at the operational level, is twofold: firstly, to ensure consistent uptime, i.e., as far as possible, uninterrupted connectivity; and secondly, to increase resilience, responding faster than usual in the event of a problem.”

Security is key to our work…

“Indeed. In 2017, for our customers, we introduced a service to protect and mitigate DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, which seek to shut down a server, service or infrastructure. Internally, we created a Security Board, pooling the skills of our different departments, which meets regularly to analyse and tighten the security of everything we do. Moreover, to make what our customers do more secure, for a long time, we have provided them with a digital certificate service: for servers, customers and source codes. Through the cooperation of NRENs at the European level (via the GÉANT platform), a global contract means that we can offer our customers very low prices, speeding up their ability to adopt secure implementation.”

In the future, what challenges will you have to rise to?

“The first challenge is Internet availability, permanent connectivity, which is uninterrupted and fast, something on which society at large relies. This has always been critical and essential, but it remains a challenge. In fact, like any technology, our infrastructure requires intervention and maintenance, so there is a risk of interruption. If you compare it, for example, with the vehicle sector, high-performance cars need regular maintenance, and you are never 100% guaranteed that they will not break down. The second challenge is the security of our customers’ business, especially in the fields of research and education.

A mere virus could shut down an entire hospital, with potentially dramatic consequences. Another example: protection against cyberattacks must now consider developments in the Internet of Things. Nowadays, a simple connected device, such as a webcam, may be used to take control. These devices cannot be configured. If they experience security failure, the user may not realize it. So, we must help our research and education customers cope with change, while, at the same time, working to develop the services they need.”

And opportunities?

“The future is in synergies, which enable us to achieve economies of scale, rationalize what we do and use public money. We have finalized an internal WAN for the FPS Finance. We must capitalize on this experience and encourage other institutions and government departments to benefit from it. Another possible synergy: decentralized offices of the FPS Finance in Belgium are also used by other FPSs. They could use the capacities that we have installed and work with shared connections. With this approach, there could only be one provider. But, in particular, our expertise and our situation, at the very heart of federal institutions, help us offer the solutions that are most appropriate to this kind of customer.”

Are your mission and core business changing?

“No. In 2017, we very much focused on our work for government departments, because key requirements had to be met. As a separately managed government department, we have provided services to other government departments since the very beginning. But, as the new description of our mission states, although we operate in the federal world, Belnet is and will remain the reference NREN player in Belgium.”

The Internet was created in the US as a network dedicated to education and universities. It is also for this reason that the Belgian government decided to create a scientific network.

Since 2016, Belnet has been involved in the federal policy on client orientation set up by the FPS Policy and Support (BOSA). In this context, the report 2017 mentions two complaints received and settled within the official deadlines to the satisfaction of the complainants.

Key figures

NUMBER OF END USERS PER CUSTOMER GROUP (TOTAL AT THE END OF 2017: 806,283)

NUMBER OF END USERS PER CUSTOMER GROUP (TOTAL AT THE END OF 2017: 80

NUMBER OF END USERS

NUMBER OF END USERS

NUMBER OF INSTITUTIONS PER CUSTOMER GROUP (AT THE END OF 2017: 193)

NUMBER OF INSTITUTIONS PER CUSTOMER GROUP (AT THE END OF 2017: 193)

THE TOTAL ACCESS CAPACITY OF BELNET CUSTOMERS, IN GBIT/S

THE TOTAL ACCESS CAPACITY OF BELNET CUSTOMERS, IN GBIT/S

NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS

NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS

Highlights

01|17
Complete integration of FedMAN in the Belnet network

Following the government department’s reorganization, Belnet has become the FedMAN’s Service Owner and the single point of contact for this network.

03|17
Set-up of a new ITIL process

To ensure a maximum uninterrupted connectivity service and best meet customer requirements, Belnet has created an ITSM department dedicated to applying and tracking good IT management practices.

03|17
Completion of the implementation of the WANFIN

Belnet’s expertise has expanded into the internal network of a public administration. The FPS Finance satellite offices now use Belnet connectivity.

06|17
Launch of Belnet guestroam

Institutions using eduroam and/or govroam now have access to a new functionality, which allows their visitors to receive temporary access to their Wi-Fi network (govroam/eduroam).

10|17
New monitoring on my.belnet.be

For a more pleasant experience for its customers, Belnet has improved interface quality and interactivity, allowing them to consult their connectivity statistics.

10|17
BNC 2017

The Belnet Networking Conference brought together 140 participants and covered all ICT-related subjects of the moment: AI, big data, cybersecurity… It was also an occasion to present the internal changes made by Belnet to better meet the requirements of its customers.

11|17
GDPR brochure and check-up tool

Belnet provided its customers with a brochure and online tool to help them come into line with GDPR standards. These were developed by the Cyber Security Coalition, of which Belnet is a member, and the Centre for Cyber Security Belgium.

12|17
Traffic peak of 260 Gbit/s on the BNIX network

The BNIX has experienced a traffic peak of 260 Gbit/s, the highest ever recorded.

Mission

Belnet is the Belgian National Research & Education Network (NREN). It stimulates the deployment of knowledge and the information society by providing and maintaining high-quality innovative network infrastructures with associated services to meet the specific needs of higher education, researchers and government departments in Belgium through its expertise, unique position in the market and economies of scale.

Vision

The vision of Belnet, characterized as ‘Dedicated Connectivity’, revolves around four strategic objectives.

Trusted partner
Belnet is a reliable and trusted partner offering value-added services on a high-quality network.

Focus on services and security
Belnet clearly focuses on a range of services that use the connectivity it offers. The specific attention given to security is the common theme in the provision of services.

High-quality network
A high-quality network is a sine qua non for serving customers and being able to provide them with new services.

Professional organization
Belnet is a professional organization that follows clear rules and reports with complete transparency.

Values

Trust
Belnet is a reliable, stable, non-commercial and neutral partner among its customers.

Dedicated
Focused on service to customers and the community, Belnet develops services and a specific infrastructure tailored to their needs.

Effectiveness
Belnet is an effective, efficient and high-quality organization.

Professionalism
Belnet works professionally by providing the necessary expertise and know-how.

4 focus on Belnet's activities in 2017

Belnet, an overview of the organization

2017 Budget accounts and results

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