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Logging off from REANNZ

Yesterday, after 6 years, was my final day as chair of REANNZ (Research & Education Advanced Network New Zealand Limited).  REANNZ has been a fantastic business to be part of.  It is a highly specialised national and international telecommunications company with a very particular technological advantage.  In layman's terms, REANNZ moves heaps and heaps of data very, very fast.  We're talking truly huge data flows - astronomically large files (literally).  Normal telcos are optimised to move lots of small packets of data. REANNZ (like its partner R&E networks around the world) moves data in a different way. A normal network might need to re-transmit 1 out of every 100 or 1000 data packets.  REANNZ has a packet loss rate of 1 in hundreds of millions. That has huge performance implications for large discrete data flows over long distances. What REANNZ moves in an hour can take days or even months on a conventional network.  That means researchers can run experiments much more frequently, collaborate internationally, have access to global research facilities, and perform research that couldn't be done without a high performance R&E network.

But REANNZ is more than technology.  It is the system manager for the R&E network - linking most of NZ's research institutions, larger tertiary education institutions and government agencies to each other and the world's R&E community.   And system management is really about people.  I've been privileged to work with great people through my involvement with REANNZ - great staff, great CEOs and great co-directors.  REANNZ has become one of the best small R&E networks in the world, and we've done some superb deals for NZ (eg. FX/Vocus and Hawaiki).

REANNZ doesn't try to compete in the general telecommunications market.  It is really about large institutional data flows and related services. But not every institution needs the full bundle of services offered by REANNZ. So in the next few months, REANNZ will unveil a new multi-dimensional pricing model which should make its offering even more attractive and relevant.

I normally believe that the private sector should provide services where it can. Normally, but not always. NZ (and the NZ taxpayer) has a precious gem in REANNZ - both as a service and as a system manager - and NZ  should make more use of its investment.