Recent developments within Euronet

Recent developments within Euronet

Recent developments within Euronet Euronet is the online distributed packet-switched network being built by the European Community, its nine member co...

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Recent developments within Euronet Euronet is the online distributed packet-switched network being built by the European Community, its nine member countries and their FITs. W Ituber outlines recent developments within the network. The features o f the telecommunications network are reviewed, and the problems arising from the heterogeneous offer o f approximately 25 information services (hosts) giving access to about 100 bibliographical databases and factual databanks in Europe using different hardware, software and natural languages are discussed. The telecommunications costs for use o f the network, which are based particularly on data volume, will be 5 15% o f the total cost o f a search. The tariffs, which are distance4ndependent, have been announced by the PTT administrations. The total cost o f the implementation o f Euronet is about $5M. Operations will start at the end o f 1978. The European Community (EC) of nine member countries has a population in excess of 250M using six official languages. It has become clear that, within this large, however heterogeneous, market, innovation and information transfer has to play a dominant role, since it is one of the few 'raw materials' the EC has. Though statistics say that, in Europe, there are more access points to computerized information per square kilometer (including those of Tymshare, Telenet, General Electric Network, Cyphernet, Esanet etc.) than in the United States, the use of information resources per capita in Europe is one tenth that in the USA.

be laid on European databases of special interest to industry. The major advantage of this Community-wide policy lies in adopting a coordinated approach to adapting national policies to international policy and vice versa as early as possible, thus saving much individual effort and providing users with better, cheaper and faster information under equal and fair conditions throughout the EC.

First action plan The legal framework for implementing this policy dates back to the EC's Council of Ministers' Resolution of 24th June 1971, which stated that 'scientific, technical, economic, legal and social information (STI) should be made available by the most modern methods' within the EC. This resulted in the launching of a first action plan in STI for 1975 - 1977. Jointly drafted by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) and its consultative body the Committee for Information and Documentation on Science and Technology (CIDST), which consists of national experts, this plan inaugurated the first long-term policy for the EC in modern information handling. With the emphasis being on selling information as a product, and the need to promote online information, the main goals of the action plan are •

I N F O R M A T I O N P O L I C Y IN T H E EC The challenge now, therefore, is to create a common market in the field of scientific, technical, economic, legal and social information. The problem is not only to create a data telecommunications network, but to improve the information environment. This entails the offer of information services, especially Europe-specific information services, and access to them. Although the major US databases will also be offered through Euronet, including those that are already available in Europe through Lockheed and the System Development Corporation (SDC), emphasis will Directorate-General Scientific and Technical Information and Information Management,Commission of the EuropeanCommunities, Ba"timent Jean Monnet, Plateau du Kirchberg, Bo,'~t¢postale 1907, Luxembourg This paper was presentedat the Perspectiveon Information Utilities Symposium, JlPDEC (Japan Information Processingand Development Centre), Tokyo. 4-5 October 1977

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to develop databases and information services in areas where gaps are identified, • to develop an international data telecommunications network for handling STI, • to improve the information environment to provide users with easy access to all major information sources. Milestones in the realization of Euronet were • on 18th March 1975, the Council of Ministers of the EC adopted the action plan, thus authorizing the Commission of the EC to carry it out. • on 15th December 1975, the French PT'I" administration, acting on behalf of a consortium of all nine PTT administrations of the EC member states, signed, with the CEC, the contract for the implementation of Euronet's telecommunication network. • on 29th June 1977, a contract was signed between the PTT administrations and a consortium of EC software firms led by the French firm Sesa and its UK partner

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Logica, who will implement the network using the technology of the French Transpac network. The total budget for the action plan for 1975 - 1977 is ~8.75M, which is estimated to be equivalent to approximately 5% of the total public expenditure on STI in the member states for the same period ~. The total cost of implementing the telecommunications network is about $5M. The EC's share is ~3.5M, and the cofinancing of the PTTs is 91.5M.

Second action plan A second plan of action for 1978 - 1980 has been prepared, and has been submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval. The principal objectives of the plan are as follows: • to turn Euronet into a public operational online information network, • to develop a common market for scientific and technical information, • to promote technology and methodology for improving information services, with special emphasis on those of Euronet. The total budget for the second action plan has been planned at about ~10M, which is slightly greater than the amount that was foreseen for the first action plan.

EURONET: THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS NETWORK Packet-switching technology The highly interactive data exchange between a terminal user and a host computer (service supplier) offering databases through its information service during a search has led, from the start, to the requirement for a datatransmission facility that can be shared efficiently by a large number of low-volume users; and thus packetswitching technology was a natural choice 2

Design of the network The basic elements of Euronet are four nodes that are called packet-switching exchanges (PSEs), at Frankfurt, London, Paris and Rome, and five remote accessfacilities for user terminals at Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin and Luxembourg. The transmission capacity between PSEs will be 48 kbit/s, and that between remote accessfacilities and PSEs will be 9.6 kbit/s. The PTT administrations will operate a special network control centre (NCC) that will be located in London. The planned network configuration is shown in Figure 1. High reliability of the network is guaranteed, since two paths are always available. The choice of technology for the network was subject to the requirement that it should be a proven technology, either implemented or near implementation in a packetswitched network. The decision was taken by the PTT consortium to use the French Transpac technology. The network is planned to be operational by mid1978. Apart from budgetary limitations, another major argument for this decision was that, since the Transpac techno-

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Figure I. Euronet layout Iogy is designed for a public PTT network, it provides the expansion capacity that is needed for Euronet's planned interlinking with present or future PTT data networks. Suitability for network growth is one design criterion that has heavily influenced network planning. Equally important for the long-term objectives of the project are consideration of the CCITT series Recommendations and CEPT (Confe~rence Europe'enne des Administrations des Postes et des Tcqe'communications) requirements for services on public packet-switched networks. The detailed design of the network components follows the Transpac pattern closely. The major components of a PSE are two processors in duplex configuration for control, switching and synchronous access, and time-division multiplexers for asynchronous access. For example, the PSE in Rome will consist of a Mitra 125, a CP 50 and a Case 670. A remote accessfacility consists of a combination of Case multiplexers, and may consist of one Case 670 and one Case 672.

Network interfaces for user terminals and host computers Each PSE and remote access facility will offer two types of interfaces 3 : • asynchronous interfaces (character-mode interfaces) that essentially provide support for teleWpewriter-compatible user terminals, • synchronous interfaces (X.25-type interfaces) to which host computers will be connected. This interface should also eventually support sophisticated terminals such as screen-oriented terminals (I BM 3270 features etc.).

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The present STI-user community in the EC relies largely on teletypewriter-compatible terminals for access to databases. 140 asynchronous interfaces will initially be provided. The total will be quickly raised to 270. The speeds to be provided by asynchronous interfaces are • via the public switched telephone network, 110/300 and 1 200 bit/s. • via direct links, 600 and 1 200 bit/s. The interface specification is the Euronet switching protocol ESP/20 BIS. ESP/20 BIS has been developed by a special CEPT study group, and is to be used in Transpac. It has been proposed to the CCITT, and it will probably become a major standard in packet-switched networks. It will be implemented in Euronet in such a way as to support common teletypewriter or teletypewriter-compatible terminals (e.g. Teletype ASR 33, Texas Instruments Silent 700). 110 (or later 200) of the above-mentioned total of asynchronous ports available on the starting date will be dial-up ports. Assuming a ratio of 3:1 (terminals:dial-up ports), and adding the direct interfaces, the network will initially support more than 1 000 asynchronous terminals, provided that there are also low-volume users. The synchronous interfaces of Euronet are X.25 interfaces used to connect 'packet-mode terminals', in particular host computers, to the packetswitching network. They will also be used to provide sophisticated terminal support, and the development of this support is a current major task. Connection will be exclusively via direct links, and the speeds provided will range from 2400 to48 000 bit/s (initially up to 9600 bit/s only). The total initial number of ports is 36 (later 54). It should be noted that, since the final version of X.25 is still being discussed within the CCITT, Euronet will implement X.25 as specified and interpreted for the Transpac implementation, and according to the specifications that are currently being released by the Euronet PTT project team in Paris. Terminal support will be at least equivalent, if not superior, to the facilities that are offered by the corresponding Telenet and Tymshare nodes that are providing good-quality access to US services.

EURONET: THE INFORMATION NETWORK Bibliographic databases These databases contain bibliographic information, i.e. they refer the user to a document or documents from which he must extract the information relevant to his needsa. More than 90 bibliographic databases have been offered for connection to Euronet. A comparison of these approximately 90 bibliographic databases with the 115 databases freely diallable in Europe shows that most of the accessible bibliographical databases in Europe will be offered through Euronet, although certain proposed bibliographic databases are still being implemented and are therefore not included in the figure of 115. Approximately 75% of the bibliographic databases offered to Euronet are of European origin, 20% of US origin and 5% of other origin. However, if the volume of the databases, e.g. the number of citations, is considered, about 60% is of US origin and 40% of European origin. The databases offered will cover a broad spectrum from medicine and chemistry to social and economic information.

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About one third of the databases are related to 'hard' sci ences, about a quarter relate to medicine and biology and the rest covers subjects such as education, agriculture, law and the environment. According to recent forecasting and marketing studiess, 6, the proportion of initial online searches for medicine (35%) and for science and engineering (50%) in 1979 will steadily fall, while those for law, transport/ utilities, then environment etc. will increase.

Factual databanks These contain 'direct' information, which may take the form of 'real' data, numerical or otherwise. Some of the databanks, such as scientific and statistical databanks, are supported by a suite of computer programs that enable the user to carry out calculations on the data stored in the databank. About 25 factual databanks have so far been offered for connection to Euronet, and this number should therefore be added to the approximately 90 bibliographical databases. About 110 publicly diallable databanks are available in Europe. More than 50% (59) have been created in the field of business and the economy, which demonstrates the importance of factual databanks to industry. Nearly all these databanks are of US origin. They are accessible mainly through the US networks Cyphernet, Mark III, Telenet and Tymnet. The challenge is now for European databank producers to set up databanks containing European information on forecasting, statistics, demography, products and companies etc.

Information services About 25 information services (Figure 1) have so far announced their intention of being connected to the network, among them • the Space Documentation Service (SDS) of the European Space Agency (ESA), Rome, which at the moment operates a network of its own (Esanet); it is intended to transfer the SDS services from Esanet to Euronet gradually in the EC area; • the Deutsches Institut fur Medizinische Dokumentation und Information (DIMDI) at Cologne; • the British Library, London, which has recently put into operation an automated information service, Blaise; • Info-Line, London, which intends to start up commercial service in 1978; • the French services Titus and Ariane, Paris, and Thermodata, Grenoble; • CNUCE, Pisa, which will offer several databases. Four hosts have been announced in the UK, five in W. Germany, nine in France, four in Italy (SDS and the EC Joint Research Centre, Ispra, are to be added), one in Belgium, one in Denmark and the CEC's own Euronet-dedicated computer in Luxembourg.

Third-party traffic In the contract between the Commission of the European Communities and the PTTs, provision is made for Euronet to become the basis of a future data-transmission network. Hence Euronet's excess capacity will open the way to thirdparty traffic of a public as well as a private nature, e.g. that of multinationals 8. The advantage of Euronet as opposed to present leased-line practices lies especially in its higher relia-

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biliW. Third-party traffic will probably account for first an equal, and afterwards a larger, share of the data traffic compared with STI from 1982 onwards.

FACTORS FOR SUCCESS OF EURONET Users and traffic j!°

One of the first activities undertaken as part of the detailed planning work for designing Euronet was the initiation of a forecasting study to provide data on the future online use of publicly available databases for STI in the EC (Figure 2). The forecast has since been updated in the light of the development of the project, especially in the light of the delay in its first operation, which is now scheduled for December 1978. Some definitions used in the approximate traffic estimates are given below: • The 'user' means an end user who, at the beginning of Euronet operation, will lack experience in accessing networks and will therefore address himself to an intermediary. It is expected that there will be approximately 100 000 end users of Euronet. • An 'intermediary' (which includes information brokers) is experienced with online information retrieval and constitutes the subscriber. • One search is defined as one subscriber with one purpose in one session9. • One subsearch is defined as one subscriber with one purpose in one session using one database. • The average duration of a search using a bibliographical database (online sample printout and possible subsearches included) is approximately 30 min in Europe. In the USA, the duration is estimated to be only 20 rain I o • No statistics are available for the average duration of a search using a factual databank. However, average values of about 8 rain/search are given by Predicast. • While the data transfer for a bibliographical search tends to be 20-40 kbyte, this figure will be 2-20 kbyte for a databank search, where considerable differences between numerical and evaluated and nonnumerical databanks are possible. • It is assumed that, on average, two databases are accessed for one search, although large industry subscribers report an average use of six databases (six subsearches) to answer one search.

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Figure 3. Origins of user searches (Euronet traffic estimate: 1979 - 150 000 search/annum, 1980 - 350 000, 1985 2000000) Although statistics about STI are currently given in terms of searches, the terminal connect h/annum figures are much more explicit and reliable if they are obtainable. Euronet traffic forecasts are therefore given in terminal connect hours per annum, and search or subsearch figures are only given for comparison. Estimates for the total data traffic via Euronet are (Figure 3) • •

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1976

1980

1985

1979:75 000 terminal connect h/annum

• 1980:175 000 terminal connect h/annum 1985:1 000 000 terminal connect h/annum

According to statistics provided by Eusidic (the European Association of Scientific Information Dissemination Centres) 180 000 bibliographical database subsearches in total, and 2 200 000 databank subsearches with European databanks only (guessed at taking more than 100 000 connect h/annum) were conducted in Europe during 1976. Assuming an overall Community market of 500 000 connect h/annum in 1980, the estimate of a share of 175 000 connect h/annum for Euronet seems rather conservative. Assuming also that 65% of all searches would go to five major host operators, each of which would therefore receive revenue from about 20 000 internationally generated connect hours per annum, full cost recovery for hosts would be possible at an early stage (i.e. within two years of the startup of Euronet).

Tariffs Figure 2. Tote/number o f pub/ic- database users in Europe

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The tariff for accessing a network and obtaining information through it will be a critical factor that influences

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the use of the network. The total cost for a Euronet search is composed of the following elements: • the renting or purchase of a terminal, which will cost, if rented, between ~;100/month for a portable terminal and several thousand dollars per month for a powerful terminal with a graphical display unit. The user may well, of course, already have his own terminal. • the use of the connection between the terminal and the access points of the network. This ranges from a local telephone call to a long-distance call or rent for a permanent line. • the use of the packet-switched network that will be announced at the beginning of 1978 by the PTT administrations after discussion with the CEC. The most important ratification element will be the volume of data transmitted. The access time to the telecommunications network will be a minor factor. This telecommunications cost will be 5-15% of the total cost of a search and will be less than the transatlantic communications cost for US networks. • accessto the facilities of the information service to which the user turns. These charges will in part depend on arrangements with the database supplier (i.e. royalties). Two examples are: for Predicast file 21 (international statistics), which is available through Lockheed, the annual access fee is ~i500, and Inspec Physics will cost ~45/h. The present total search rates are of the order of ~il/min.

Management and marketing While the telecommunications network will be managed by the PTTs, Euronet the information network is to be managed initially by the host operators as far as their services are concerned. For the future, it is envisaged that, on the policy level, there will be a management committee consisting of representatives of member states, the CEC and the PTTs, while, on the operational level, a small professional team would be created. By meetings between the EC and the hosts, and the EC and user representatives, regular consultation and feedback will be achieved. The marketing effort is concentrating on expanding the online user market and the search volume for information services. To achieve the very ambitious projected growth rates for Euronet, which will have a turnover of ~4.5M (75 000 X 60 connect rain/annum X ~;1/min) in its first year of operation, it is believed that at least 10% of this sum should be invested in marketing. There are aspects of promotion that would appear to be the concern of the CEC, the Pl-rs, governments, service suppliers and database producers. A promotional programme by the CEC is about to be started with an initial allocation of ~250 000.

User aids To overcome the psychological barrier that often hinders human beings from applying technical and technological progress (which is specially true within the information and documentation area, whether one has to deal with terminals, computers or software networks up to administrative procedures), two particular efforts are needed. User training will be a major contribution towards solving the problem. Simplification and standardization is needed at all levels within the network environment.

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• host-computer-terminal dialogue; there are concepts of ESP/20 for asynchronous terminals and the Data Entry Virtual Terminal (DEVT) for synchronous terminals. The DEVT will not be available for Euronet from the beginning. • subscriber-terminal dialogue, which will permit the use of standardized commands for accessingall the databases. To improve this standard command set 11 for informationretrieval systems, discussion is taking place with subscribers and major mainframe manufacturers. Moreover, the CEC has initiated, as in other fields, contacts with the appropriate ISO Committee on this subject. • relationships between subscribers and administrations (inhouse, PTT, hosts). Simple contracts and easy billing procedures are needed. Nevertheless, in a multiple-host/ multiple-database and multiple-currency environment, the user will be faced with a complex system. • harmonization of manuals. • guidelines for information-service / database supplier relationships. Recently, guidelines 12 were produced by the International Council of Scientific Unions' Abstracting Board (ICSU) on behalf of the CEC that were aimed at harmonizing the conditions under which databases are made available to host operators. • preparation of multilingual tools to overcome language barriers, including automatic translation. • development of an efficient referral system that will guide the user to the most appropriate database(s) to answer his query ~3 • quick and effective document delivery. A study on this subject has been launched recently. N E E D FOR A N D M E R I T S OF E U R O N E T Economic reasons To be competitive worldwide in the market of telecommunications hardware (e.g. PSEs) and software (e.g. host-computer-network and network-terminal interfaces), Europe needed an international data network that used advanced technology. The economic risks of such an undertaking had to be shared by all the countries in the EC Before the Euronet project was started, there was no unified European information-service market, and there were many overlaps and gaps. Only now has European information become a product created by international cooperation and harmonization of efforts. Euronet will provide low-cost and easy access to major online information sources, e.g. from the office by telephone, European-wide. In the European Common Market, European information on statistics, products and business in general is extremely important. This information could not be provided by the US services. Euronet, however, will be an appropriate framework, with its large number of users, to encourage the European Chamber of Commerce and private organizations, for instance, to create the much-needed but expensive databanks in the commercial field. It is hoped that efforts such as marketing and user training that are undertaken within the framework of Euronet on various levels will result in a European information-conscious society. The SDC online user survey stated that 75% of the managers questioned agreed that productivity was greatly increased through the use of online services. No industry likes the idea of its data being controlled by centralized hosts, where it might be easy to use search

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statistics and profiles to deduce companies' interests in research projects and future developments. Although the heterogeneity of the Euronet hosts may cause many problems, it will fulfil the major requirement of data security in industry, which it is hoped will be the main customer of Euronet. Euronet, which will have distance-independent tariffs for STI traffic, may affect international tariffs in other telecommunications networks.

Technical urgency The creation of Euronet has had a strong impact on

• EC-wide collaboration of the PTT administrations, • a unified packet-switching technology, which will avoid unhealthy competition, such as happened in the field of television receivers (Secam, PAL), • standards and interface software (e.g. CCITT, X.25), • protocols (e.g. CEPT, ESP/20), • providing reliable long-term carrier facilities for thirdparty traffic, • the creation of a future public data-transmission network, • the use of software and hardware, developed by Sesa and Logica, for the PTTs, • more portability of hardware and software in general, • collaboration between hardware and software producers to facilitate accessto Euronet for the user (e.g. common command set), • collaboration with organizations such as the ISO (in distinct fields of information), • the development of automatic translation facilities (e.g. Titus, Systran), • the degree of expertise of consultant organizations in the field of networking and information.

Political motivation After having failed to produce a common European computer (Unidata), Europe could not afford to lose even more ground in the field of computer hardware and software and telecommunications. Therefore the creation of Euronet, which will have to be competitive with the already well established American STI networks, was politically necessary. Only when Euronet is operational will real negotiations with other nonEC countries be possible. Because of the great importance that is attributed to information, and the large investments that are needed to create a common market for STI, public funding, and therefore political decisions, were required.

EURONET A N D ITS POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS A study of the cost of different network configurations ~4 showed that the implementation of a European distributed network will cost only one third to one tenth the cost of a star network. A distributed modular European network concept has therefore been chosen.

Euronet and the national networks within the EC Most of the PTT administrations within the EC are either planning or implementing packet-switched services: •

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Transpac, the French network, is announced to be becoming operational in the middle of 1978.

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DNI, the Dutch network, which is being contracted out to ITT, is planned to become operational in 1980. The Belgian PET is also planning a network. Denmark is participating in Scanner and in the Nordic Public Data Network. The Italian PTT is closely following Euronet's development. W. Germany have decided to implement a data network that will be connected to Euronet.

Euronet, which has given a major impetus to most of these national developments, will be connected to the PTT data networks as they become operational.

Euronet and third countries Certain nonEC bodies, such as representatives of Scannet, the American networks, some countries that have signed the Lom~ convention, Switzerland and possibly Japan, have shown interest in Euronet. Euronet, which will be a commercial undertaking, is, in principle, open to worldwide cooperation with any information service, provided that it fulfils certain minimum requirements, such as being of acceptable quality.

REFERENCES I Huber, W and van Maize, P 'Facilities and accessarrangements for data collections on a network'Presented at the 2nd ECSIR Workshop, Edinburgh (October 1976) 2 Jegu, P 'Euronet: le reseau Europeen d'information "online" ' Cours Informatigue et Medecine, Paris (December

1976) 3 Ungerer, H 'Euronet', Contribution to Leergang Computer Communicatie, Technische Hoogeschool Eindhofen (31 August 1977) 4 Tomberg, A (Ed.) Data bases in Europe, a directory to machine-readable data bases and data banks in Europe Aslib, 3 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8 PL (1976) 5 Davies, G W P 'Data base sharing in the Euronet environment' Proc. AGARD Conf., Oslo (1977) 6 Forecast of users of on-line retrieval services for scientific and technical information in Europe 1976-1985 PA International Management Consultants, London (1974) 7 Euronet marketing study PA International Management Consultants, London (1977)

8 Anderla, G 'Euronet - what for?' Presented at Datafair 77, London (October 1977) 9 'Newsidic' Inf. Bull. European Association of Scientific Information Dissemination Centres No 3 (1977) 10 Wanger,J, Fishburn, U and Cuadra, C A On-Line impact study - Survey report o f On-Line users (19741975) 11 Negus, A E Study to determine the feasibility o f a standardized command set for Euronet Inspec (1976) 12 Euronet - guidelines for cooperation between data base suppliers and host organizations ICSU-AB (1977)

13 Huber, W 'Referral, a tool to increase the use of available information resources' On-line Rev. (to be published) 14 Economics o f the European Information Network Diebold Deutschland (1975)

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