Information Renaissance designs, builds and operates networks with
scalable architectures. In this context
"architecture" refers to sets of
telecommunications facilities and services and the interconnections among
these services. A scalable architecture is one that can accommodate
large-scale growth without needing to rebuild from scratch.
A scalable network has several intrinsic features. One is its
distributed nature: resources such as electronic mail servers
can be distributed across the network and placed where users of the
network can most easily access them. School-based servers provide
an important example of this concept. These devices concentrate resources at
local sites without requiring those sites to take care of system maintenance;
this can be carried out from a central site via the network. The same type of
server, positioned at neighborhood network hubs, can be an efficient
mechanism for community access.
Another important feature is interoperability, which guarantees that
different computers can talk to each other over the wide area network. The
signaling protocols which define the Internet assure interoperability of all
computers connected to the Internet.
In each of Info Ren's networking projects,
mechanisms are sought to provide the
infrastructure necessary for ongoing operation and support. At each
site served by these projects, there are efforts
to develop enough local expertise to sustain
the activity, including training new users, maintenance of user accounts
and elementary trouble-shooting. This takes care of 90%-95% of the problems
that come up in a typical operation.
Info Ren projects seek to democratize the activities
surrounding networking, first by involving a
very broad set of people in the use of networking technology, and then
by teaching members of all participating groups what they need to know
to maintain the necessary infrastructure. Info
Ren seeks to involve the public in a range of networking
activities, including education, employment and easy access to
In the course of our projects, a number of people have emerged with the
technical skills necessary to implement regional computer networks.
Leaders of these projects now serve as leaders in other networking efforts.
And from among the thousands of individuals
introduced to networking technology through these projects many
others will appear who are capable of leading new networking
projects and developing new network applications.
It is important to note that the themes os scalability, sustainability and
democracy are hallmarks of the public Internet as it exists today.
The projects described in the History
section predate the remarkable growth of the Internet, and it is fair to
say that the Pittsburgh projects which led to the founding of
Info Ren have helped to
shape the Internet, particularly as it
applies to education and community development. Info Ren
will seek to maintain the creative thrust of this work.