4 The network
- This chapter examines how and at what cost an infrastructure can be
created to meet the vision of the networked library service of the
twenty-first century. These are preliminary views - within the very
tight time-scale of this report - and there is still work to be done
once these proposals have been adopted in principle by government.
- The infrastructure has been considered at local and UK-wide levels,
and recommendations cover the provision of networks, hardware for users,
management and coordination issues.
- The implementation of a technology infrastructure should be fully
integrated with the creation of content that people will want to use,
with the National Grid for Learning, with training and development
programmes inside the library service, and with coaching programmes for
users. The funding proposals presented here attempt to provide the means
for such an holistic approach to implementation.
- These proposals provide the means to encourage innovation across the
library networks. When implemented, they will make networked information
and learning resources available to every UK citizen in all communities,
linking individual learners - adults and children - and their teachers
to a panoply of institutions and organisations. At the same time this
network can make UK public libraries' services available worldwide, and
give UK citizens access to global information sources.
- The chapter gives a summary of recommendations; an examination of the
network requirements both locally and for the UK (the bulk of the
discussion); the recommendations in more detail and the reasons behind
them; a discussion of the factors involved in implementation; funding
and management recommendations; and finally a section on costs.
Summary of recommendations
- The objective is to create a network infrastructure that will enable
a step change in the way the public library service operates. The
service has to be made easy to use, attractive to use, and accessible in
all communities. The proposals should encourage innovation and
sustainable continuous improvement.
- This chapter sets out to scope the requirements but not to present
them in detail. That is for the next stage. There are more than 4,700
fixed and around 700 mobile libraries; there are also over 19,000
service points - mainly unstaffed - in hospitals, prisons and community
locations. All of them should be well equipped, so that all users in all
places get ready access to the best networked library available.
- People should see that these facilities are readily available to
them, so the smallest library should have three or four multimedia
terminals for users, plus terminal(s) for librarians' use. The largest
libraries will need forty or more terminals for users, plus those for
librarians'. If we estimate that an additional 40,000 terminals are
required - together with printers, other ancillary equipment and
installation on a suitable LAN (local area network) - then a spend of
around £120 million is likely.
- Maintenance and upgrading also need to be funded. In practice it is
proposed that funding be made available on a flexible basis to cover
hardware provision, training and other requirements according to local
circumstances - see below.
- To ensure people have fast access to networked services, every
library should be connected by ISDN (Integrated Services Digital
Network) where available. Where this is not currently possible, a
negotiation with the network providers will be required to plan and
agree the provision and financing. As the number of terminals and user
sessions increases, higher bandwidths will be required. Sufficient
bandwidth (i.e. capacity) will be required to deliver distance learning
and real-time interactive visual services, as applications become
- The whole of the system should be linked by a UK-wide network that
ensures that individuals in any area can enter into and interact with
resources and learning programmes available outside their immediate
- Technology is available to help do all this, but the best, most
advanced and highest capacity is not available everywhere. As a start,
the core requirements for information and learning can be delivered
everywhere, and it will be possible to go beyond this in many places.
Main sites in all authorities can be connected to the proposed UK-wide
network. Within authorities, technical and cost constraints will prevent
all of the requirements being delivered to every single place from the
start - it should be possible to reach all locations as the project
continues. Right from the start, funding and contractual arrangements
should be created that enable remoter places to have services otherwise
- The costs of the network technology are difficult to estimate at this
stage, before a full audit and design study. In round terms, a gross
budget of £36 million is proposed for connections and £48
million annual rentals should be made available for local library
systems. This would provide for a mix of network capabilities designed
to fit local requirements. A budget of around £10 million for
connection and £36 million annual rentals for UK networking would
also be required. This budget envelope includes an allowance for full
- We have examined some individual operating costs and ICT investment
proposals as a guide. However, exact figures will arise from the
detailed audit recommended elsewhere in this report.
- The overall investment can be related to the current ICT spend for
public libraries. Replacement and new projects capital costs for IT in
the library services of England, Wales and Northern Ireland were
reported as £7.6 million in 1996/97 (Information for All, 1996). In
1995 IT expenditure for all libraries in the UK during 1994/95 was
reported as approximately £20 million (CIPFA, 1995).
- A detailed implementation plan will need to account for the systems
library authorities already have in place or are developing, and some of
the above costs will be offset by these. There is scope to share the
costs of the local infrastructure between local and central government.
- For local networking, an important point to consider is the
possibility of libraries being connected into a local branch of an
education network such as that being considered by government.
- An ICT project of this scale will also create opportunities for
efficiency savings, as well as new revenue-earning services, including
payment from central government for the delivery of electronic services.
- It is proposed that the network should consists of two main
- the library authority networks;
- the UK Public Library Network.
The library authority networks
- The objective here is to assist library authorities to continue to
develop their networks with maximum flexibility, responsiveness to local
needs, and sensitivity to existing infrastructure.
- It is proposed that library authorities should be assisted with
funding which could be bid for according to agreed criteria and could
cover the cost of:
- Web sites/servers;
- special needs;
- convenient and extended opening hours.
- Allowing a choice of how funds are allocated between these areas
would ensure local flexibility and sensitivity.
- There should be minimum standards of connectivity for all locations,
- fast connection to the Internet;
- interactive sessions using videoconferencing and multimedia tools
with locations inside and outside the libraries network.
- The capability (subject to demand) for higher-quality real-time
services should also be considered.
- A mixture of network provision dependent on local conditions is
envisaged, including ISDN and higher-bandwidth networks.
- We also recognise that some digitally recorded material could be more
cheaply and efficiently provided by increasing the availability of
- It is also proposed that minimum standards of hardware provision
(terminals for users) should be set out, to ensure wide availability to
library users. These standards should be specified in detail by the
Public Library Networking Agency when established.
The UK Public Library Network
- This would interconnect all public library authority networks at a
guaranteed level of bandwidth. This should be scalable in the range of 2
to 35 Mb/s in the first instance, with development pathway to 155 Mb/s
and beyond, so that libraries can deliver such services as access to
digital film archives, or real-time interactive distance learning. This
capacity would allow a universal availability of multimedia to
- The UK network would enable higher-quality connections to other
similar networks, and permit the creation of services for delivery
across the whole of the network. It is recommended that a managed
network service be purchased for the UK public library service.
- There should be a UK-wide funding programme in which there are two
pools of funding:
- for the library authority networks - funded by a procurement process
through a managing agent. Funds should be available for regional
consortia where library authorities choose to have cooperative
arrangements. Compliance with the minimum standards will be required.
The managing agent should be capable of managing an allocation process
- for the UK network - the network to be specified and awarded to an
operator or operators after a tender process.
- The whole process should be managed by a managing agent under the
supervision of a designated body.
Developing the infrastructure
- It is widely recognised that the Internet will continue to be the
principal driving force for the development of the information society.
The Internet is a versatile and pervasive digital network capable of
supporting a wide range of applications and providing access to a
diverse and rapidly expanding range of information services. The
Internet also provides a dynamic development environment that is
pioneering a wide range of new technologies, applications and services.
Connecting the UK public libraries to the Internet will therefore enable
them to extend their services to a wider user community and to
participate fully in the development of the information society.
- The Internet is formed by the interconnection of thousands of
separate networks in different management domains. Within a single
management domain there may be several networks, and the management
domains cover both private and public network services. The component
networks exploit numerous telecommunication technologies, ranging from
the dial-up telephone network to state-of-the-art broadband switching
technologies. The objective of the Internet is to integrate this
complexity and diversity into a single unified network from the user's
point of view.
- The Internet approach offers considerable flexibility for networking
the public libraries, allowing a solution that matches the
organisational and funding characteristics of the sector, that can take
advantage of specific UK opportunities and developments in
telecommunications at both UK and regional levels, and that can embrace
a variety of network technologies - including new technologies that will
help the networking programme to evolve in the future. Furthermore, the
Internet is associated with a rich and diverse development programme
that is pioneering new applications and addressing major issues such as
privacy, security, copyright, etc. The public libraries will be able to
participate in the benefit from this programme.
- However, the Internet alone cannot provide the level of service
required by the UK's public libraries. The Internet has bottlenecks of
information flow which cannot be managed, and it is a complex
environment in which undesirable material cannot easily be controlled.
It is therefore proposed that the library service adopts a model which
allows management of these and other important issues.
- The proposed model for networking the public libraries has two
- the provision of local networks to interconnect the libraries
associated with each library authority;
- the interconnection of the library authority networks and their
connection to the Internet and to other UK and international networks,
including the National Grid for Learning and the University for
Library authority networks
- Although this project is directed at the public library service,
implementation has to be through the library authority structures and
funding mechanisms. In referring to library networks, it is recognised
that these are sometimes part of a wider integrated local network. It is
assumed that funding can and will be earmarked for library services
within this context.
- The following assumptions have been made about the nature of local
networked public library services:
- Every local public library service can be represented as:
- clusters of users;
- a provider and publisher of content and services;
- a provider of expert guidance through information channels and
sources, and in content publishing.
- Users are in a variety of contexts, combining location, need and
- in major lending and reference libraries;
- in local community libraries, where (for example) after-school
and student use should intensify from late afternoons, particularly
when stimulated by homework clubs;
- in mobile libraries;
- in schools and other educational institutions;
- at other community information and service access points - such
as information kiosks in rural post offices or in hospitals;
- at home and at work (thereby impacting on the remote dial-in
services offered by public libraries), from where users should be
able to access a range of free and chargeable services, via the
- in prisons.
- Users will be presented with a range of services and advice, and
these should be matched to users' ability to make use of the systems and
software available. The principle of access to increasingly
sophisticated systems, software and advice should be built into the
services presented. Expert assistance and guidance will be integrated
with the services, and this expertise will be available online (via
telephone helplines) and on-site, and will include an extended-hours
- All publicly provided locations will benefit from full multimedia
access to services - text, audio and graphics and simple video services
as a minimum, but ranging to higher-quality video and other services,
dependent on demand - and for the purposes of costing there will be a
minimum standard of terminals provided for users, to comply with the
overall UK framework.
- Library authorities will continue to plan and purchase systems
independently, but public library development will be in line with the
UK-wide policy being developed here.
- Individual local public library systems will be interconnected (using
agreed UK standards) to provide a UK Public Library Network service that
provides interactive communication with:
- other public-sector online services;
- commercial online and Internet services;
- services running on SuperJANET and other similar networks in the
higher education sector.
- The purpose is to provide:
- guaranteed high-quality levels of service for users;
- cost-effective purchase for the public sector of the
infrastructure and content.
- Each library authority will be responsible for managing an
Internet-compatible network connecting all the libraries within its
jurisdiction. These networks could exploit specific regional initiatives
and opportunities where they exist - including collaborative ventures
with local industry, schools, colleges, universities, etc., and local
telecommunications opportunities. Each local network will exploit a mix
of network technologies to meet its specific requirements. These
technologies include the standard telephone network, higher-bandwidth
services available on public and private networks, leased lines, and
cable/modem, radio and satellite solutions.
- It is expected that responsibility for each of these networks will be
a local matter, but they should be supported via a UK programme that
pump-primes and stimulates development and offers technical support and
coordination. An appropriate UK-wide support programme will help to
ensure local network compatibility, will encourage sharing of resources
and experience, and will help to ensure that complete coverage of all
libraries can be achieved within a time-scale to be defined.
A UK network
- Two basic approaches have been considered:
- a managed approach, under which there would be coordinated
procurement and management of the network;
- a totally decentralised approach, under which library authorities
would separately negotiate and procure their own Internet connections.
- Option (a) would allow the provision of specific network resources
and guaranteed levels of performance for inter-authority traffic. This
is important to facilitate close collaboration among all of the library
networks on a UK scale - for example in realising the vision of creating
a National Digital Library, or for sharing networked resources at the UK
level. If, however, the primary requirement is to provide access for
each library network to the global Internet without any specific
requirement for good UK-wide interconnection of library networks then
the decentralised option - option (b) - would be appropriate.
- For option (a) it would be necessary to develop or procure a switched
wide area network providing some 200+ access points spread across the
UK. This could be developed and managed by the Public Library Networking
Agency, or it could be supplied as a managed service by one or more
network service providers; it could also be part of the framework of the
National Grid for Learning. A mix of these options is also possible. The
final choice would be determined by cost-effectiveness and flexibility
to meet changing requirements. A central management team would be
required to oversee the operation and development of the network. The
JANET/ SuperJANET network in the higher education community is an
example of this approach which could provide useful guidance for the
public library community.
- Option (b) does not require the provision of any dedicated UK network
resources. Each library network would independently connect to the
Internet, using an appropriate Internet service provider (ISP). It is
likely that several ISPs would be involved in covering the full set of
library networks. These connections could be procured either
independently by each authority or by a central procurement initiative
covering all networks, though this would carry with it the problem of
reconciling dispersed funding with strategic direction. Central
procurement would have the advantage of bulk purchasing on a UK scale,
which should attract considerable interest from the ISPs and yield
reduced costs compared with independent procurements. The central
procurement would identify the best ISP for each library network, and
the library authorities would then individually contract with the
- It is strongly recommended that option (a) - the managed approach -
is taken, on the grounds that it offers advantages of:
- technical resilience;
- guaranteed service levels;
- realisation of a UK-wide strategy.
- There is already an example of this approach in UK, namely JANET -
the Joint Academic Network, linking higher education institutions -
which is recognised as a success and is much envied abroad. This is not
to say that the UK Public Library Network would emulate the technical
infrastructure of JANET: the world has changed since JANET was
established, and there are many other options now available. However,
the benefits and outcomes of a managed network like JANET are those
appropriate for the UK Public Library Network, as follows:
Reasons for a managed network
Guaranteed service levels
- A managed network will ensure that within the UK Public Library
Network minimum levels of bandwidth can be guaranteed which will provide
predictable and reliable levels of service for users. This is essential
for user satisfaction - particularly in providing the multimedia
services which are required for lifelong learning and educational
applications. At the same time the managed network will ensure that
capacity can be geared to traffic need and overcapacity can be avoided.
A managed network will also guarantee universal access and service
levels irrespective of geography, and thus overcome the potential
disadvantage of rural locations. In this way a UK-wide strategy can be
realised, ensuring equality of access and maximum benefit for all
Combined purchasing power for telecommunications
- A managing agent acting on behalf of all the public library
authorities would be in a powerful position to negotiate advantageous
rates. This would be particularly helpful to smaller authorities and
rural areas, where bandwidth and connectivity costs could aggravate
geographical disadvantages. Access to advantageous tariffs for libraries
has been identified as an objective by OFTEL, which is committed to
facilitating this process. The costs of operation of this model are
likely to be significantly better than those of a decentralised model of
Management of content
- This solution would make it considerably easier to filter out illegal
or otherwise unacceptable content being distributed over the UK Public
Library Network, although this important policy issue must be the
subject of further discussion.
A mechanism for licensing of content
- A concerted UK-wide approach to negotiation of national licences for
access to copyright material would be a powerful and simplifying process
for large-scale access, with the potential for immense savings to the
public purse. Substantial progress has been made in the university
sector which will pave the way for this development.
Creation of content
- A managed network will encourage UK-wide cooperation on creation and
maintenance of content generated by public libraries, avoiding wasteful
duplication and creating a trading environment where useful products can
be shared and disseminated - in cooperation with the private sector
where appropriate. The managed network will also be a more favourable
environment for the development of new services, and will bring all
citizens within equal reach of these opportunities.
Mirroring of content
- A big problem with the Internet is that it can become clogged with
traffic, and access to remote resources and can be slow and frustrating.
A useful solution to this is the mirroring of resources, whereby
important information sources are copied and held where they are more
readily accessed. This is already happening on JANET. It is envisaged
that in the managed network libraries will cooperate to obtain a licence
for a major reference resource and hold it on a public library server.
The guaranteed bandwidth of the network will provide the required access
capacity for all the public libraries.
Links to other networks and abroad
- Links to other networks such as JANET and NHSnet will be facilitated
through use of a managing agent, which would be well placed to negotiate
service-level agreements, cooperative licensing schemes, and so on.
- The World Wide Web (WWW) will be an important element of public
library networking for the foreseeable future. To improve the
performance of wider WWW access and make efficient use of network
capacity - particularly high-cost international links - it is
anticipated that WWW caches will be required. Caches significantly
reduce the number of external access requests and allow the
implementation of filtering to screen some of the unwanted information.
The UK Public Library Network would allow these facilities to be
provided and managed efficiently for the whole sector.
- The whole public library service could benefit from improved
management information from the UK Public Library Network, not solely
about the technical performance of the various networks, but more
importantly about user behaviours and preferences. This would enable
improved demand forecasting at the micro and macro levels and enable
demand-led development of new services.
- A UK-wide service will allow the public library service to offer a
consistent look and feel to users. This should be used to encourage
take-up, and will further ensure universal access through better
marketing and through friendly easy-to-use screens and menus that
reassure all users, enable them to find the service they want quickly,
and act as signifiers of quality.
Capabilities of the UK managed network
- The UK network will be a wide area network interconnecting all of the
library networks and providing access to the wider Internet, including
international access, and linking into the National Grid for Learning
and the University for Industry. Access to the network from the library
networks will be via permanent connections. The network must be capable
of offering a range of access bandwidths from several hundred kilobits
per second to tens of megabits per second, both to meet the different
requirements of the library networks and to provide a future upgrade
- In considering the linking of the library networks to the Internet,
it is important to specify the requirements for the connections. These
requirements will include the bandwidth of the connection, reliability,
Internet options - which service providers are used, and how they are
connected - etc. The bandwidth requirement will depend on a number of
factors associated with the development of the library networks to be
- the size of the end-user community requiring access to the Internet -
this will be a function of the number of simultaneously active user
- the capabilities of the available user terminals, and in particular
the multimedia capabilities;
- the range of Internet applications and services of interest to the
users. It is expected that e-mail and basic information access via the
World Wide Web will be standard. More advanced applications using
facilities such as multicasting (delivering the same data packet to a
number of locations), videoconferencing, video content and virtual
reality will become increasingly important (see implementation stages 2
and 3 - paragraphs 4.64 and 4.65);
- the range of networked information and library services available on
the library network that can be accessed from the Internet.
- It is expected that over a period of only a few years the bandwidth
requirements will grow considerably as the public libraries develop
their networked services. The provision of Internet access must
therefore include a performance-upgrade path that is within the funding
capabilities of the sector.
- Three stages of implementation are envisaged.
Stage 1 - establishing connectivity
- This will involve:
- using services that can be provided now by existing companies to
upgrade all libraries - irrespective of location - to current best
practice, providing bandwidth to accommodate the factors listed above;
- establishing a managed UK network with appropriate interfaces to
local and other networks as described above.
- The network should be provided as a managed service, available
twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A service-level agreement
should be developed to define the required services in detail. A growing
number of British Internet service providers are capable of providing
private networks on a UK scale, and the most appropriate method for
obtaining the network would be via a competitive procurement for a
- The contract with the selected service provider should include access
to the wider Internet. In addition, specific bilateral links to other
networks might be required - for example, to the higher education
community's JANET network or to the Government Data Network. These links
would be negotiated separately. International access should be sought as
part of the requirement for the UK network, but the possibility of
separate provision should also be explored. As a guideline, the cost of
a 2 Mb/s transatlantic link is estimated at £0.5 million per annum.
Stage 2 - re-engineering and adding value
to the public library services UK-wide
- This will involve service development requiring investment in content
origination and in the quality of service delivered to identified user
groups - for example, in:
- cooperatively managed UK-wide services;
- remote (dial-up) access for every household and business that wants
to be connected;
- content and services exploiting links from local libraries to local
schools, adult education centres, business training establishments,
- improved content publishing and distribution capabilities;
- extension of information-user groups with targetable needs for
service - for example, business users in an industry sector; people with
disabilities; environmental action groups; ethnic groups with special
cultural, learning and language needs;
- charging mechanisms for added-value services - for example, to
- enhancements to messaging networks for individuals to communicate
with councillors, local government offices, MPs, etc. from all access
points via e-mail and videoconferencing (the simple provision of which
should be within Stage 1).
Stage 3 - advanced services development
- This will involve piloting and implementation of services utilising
leading-edge networking and software, enabling:
- personalised libraries using intelligent agents to seek out material
likely to be of interest in the light of past user behaviour;
- totally new services created specifically for the network;
- new inter-regional and international networked library services;
- more advanced and fully interactive community/citizen services,
extending democratic access to government representatives, officials and
- next-generation content and services providing educational software,
Management of the network
- A range of issues which will need an expert professional management
approach has been identified. These issues are:
- procurement - procurement of products and services which form the
network services, and achievement of economies of scale on behalf of the
public library community;
- network contract management - managing contracts with the
telecommunications suppliers on behalf of the public library community;
- service-level monitoring - operation of the network to standards set
by and on behalf of the public library community;
- service coordination - coordinating the provision of services offered
on the network either by participating libraries or by third parties -
for example, mirror sites;
- network links - managing the interface with other networks, including
government departments, SuperJANET, NHSnet, international links, etc.;
- support - providing expert advice to participating libraries;
- development - keeping up to date with technical development on behalf
of public libraries, and promoting continual improvement;
- registration - management of public library participation and
(possibly) looking after domain names etc.
- These issues would almost certainly need to be handled by a managing
agent. Two models are possible:
- the cooperative model - by which all participating public libraries
would agree to set up an agency to act on their behalf;
- the contracted model - by which a tender document would be drawn up
on behalf of public libraries for open competition by competent parties,
and the successful bidder would operate the service on behalf of the
- Option (a) is likely to present formidable problems. At present there
is no mechanism by which libraries could reach such an agreement, and
reaching consensus from an ab initio position would be costly
and time-consuming. Such problems would hinder the speedy and effective
implementation of such an important initiative as this.
- On the other hand, option (b) could be organised with relative ease
through existing mechanisms. Assuming that central funding is
forthcoming for the UK Public Library Network, the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport, in consultation with other relevant
departments, could channel this through to the Library and Information
Commission. The LIC could oversee a tendering and selection process,
calling on specialist advice as necessary. The LIC could either advise
government on the letting of the contract, or let the contract on behalf
of government. Following the award of the contract, the LIC would be the
appropriate body to monitor and arrange for audit of compliance.
- Local development for the new services has been considered with the
following factors in mind:
- Library authorities already operate networks in a variety of
configurations, and with variable degrees of sophistication, for public
- It is recommended that all library authorities bring their networks
up to a minimum standard in order to deliver world-class standards of
networked information services to their users.
- Any solution has to be responsive and flexible to local needs and
- Differences in population density and geography need to be allowed
- Implementation should be compliant with a UK-wide framework that will
emerge from the detailed design phase, and which will include:
- Internet compatibility;
- interconnecting all libraries within an authority;
- compatibility and connection with the UK network.
- There is no prescription for the hardware configurations required to
meet local needs beyond the requirement to comply with a minimum UK
- On this basis, it is recommended that a pool of funding be created
that enables objectives to be met on a matched funding basis. The
assessment of such funding should take account of in-kind resources such
as staffing for extended opening hours and similar operating costs.
Library authorities should have access to funds that will enable them to
acquire the appropriate mix for their local needs of connectivity,
hardware, training, and so on.
- Finally, library authorities should meet the needs of the library
service by being prepared to outsource implementation - this will help
to overcome resource bottlenecks that some library authorities' in-house
ICT departments are experiencing.
Choice of network solutions
- A number of network solutions to meet libraries' needs both locally
and UK-wide have been considered, and indicative proposals have been
provided to summarise how currently available services could meet the
requirements. Over the short to medium term, market conditions are
likely to drive down the costs of networking (but, equally, usage rates
are likely to increase significantly). The question of migration to
technologies with greater capacities and capabilities is catered for -
in general, this is better managed by purchasing a managed solution -
and the network should be reviewed frequently in the light of user
demand and the content and services available.
- The assessment is that a mix of SMDS (Switched Multi-megabit Data
Service) and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technologies could meet
the need, matched to appropriate local networking. ISDN links would
provide additional flexibility for audioconferencing and simple
- Present needs can be satisfied by this (or an equivalent)
combination, and future needs - including the delivery of more advanced
content applications - should be provided for by a growing proportion of
ATM and other new technologies in the network.
Network solutions and costs
- The network descriptions and costs outlined below are for
illustrative purposes only. A particular solution cannot be recommended
without first conducting a full tendering exercise.
- SMDS is designed to integrate with LAN data networking architectures,
and its connectionless nature (see below) and multicast facilities make
it ideal for interconnecting LANs over the wide area. SMDS suits
'bursty' data applications, and extends down to sites with relatively
low bandwidth requirements. SMDS is also ideal where bandwidth between
sites is required 'on demand' up to the agreed service-class bandwidth.
This means that SMDS is very efficient where the volume of traffic
between sites is unpredictable and varies significantly on a daily or
weekly basis. In the context of intranets, in which closed user groups
obtain the benefits of the Internet on a password-controlled basis,
users can rapidly access information, download trade and financial
market information, access corporate news and directories, view archived
photograph and film collections, and so on.
- ATM is an emerging communications technology which can be used as the
basis for both local and wide area networks. Its specification enables
it to support voice and real-time video as well as data applications.
Within both the customer and the service-provider domains, this creates
opportunities to reduce total communication costs by streamlining the
operational and support overheads.
- ATM can provide quality-of-service guarantees which SMDS (and
Ethernet) cannot, and ATM supports real-time services such as voice and
video. While some video applications, such as desk-to-desk
videoconferencing, may be supported over SMDS, it is inappropriate for
high-quality video services, such as business television or real-time
- While it appears that the majority of the requirements for
application and information availability between libraries could, in the
short to medium term at least, be satisfied by a core network based on
SMDS (probably with ISDN serving the smaller and outlying libraries), it
would also be appropriate to consider migrating to ATM at some or all
sites at some point.
- Interworking between SMDS and ATM networks can be delivered where
- Networking technology is evolving rapidly, and this, combined with
likely changes in user requirements in libraries, suggests that
contractual arrangements should allow for migration and future-proofing.
Basis for the costing of the UK managed network
- The costing is based on the following assumptions:
- The network will interconnect all library authority networks.
- The costs for the UK managed network service have been prepared to an
agreed outline specification. The suggested solution is based on an SMDS
network, to allow the overall investment to be estimated and to provide
a standard for comparison with other potential solutions.
Being a connectionless service, SMDS simplifies the planning and
dimensioning process for constructing the network. 'Connectionless'
means that customers do not need to pre-establish connections of a
particular bandwidth before information is transmitted. The customer
needs only to forecast roughly how much traffic will be going into and
out of a site - the destination or origin of that traffic and exactly
how much of it there is is not important. If the access class at any one
site starts to become a constraint, the access can be upgraded to
provide greater bandwidth.
- The cost of such a network can be estimated with accuracy only when
the requirement has been studied in more detail. A guideline estimate
for a network providing 2 Mb/s access for 189 library networks indicates
costs in the region of £1.7 million for installation and £7.5
million annually - exclusive of VAT and the costs of routers and other
hardware. Upgrading the performance of all connections by a factor of
five would increase the costs to £6.2 million for installation and £14.9
million annually. These figures are derived as below.
- The SMDS price consists of a connection charge and annual rental,
both of which are based on an access class. An additional
distance-related rental will apply for any customer site more than 25 km
from the nearest SMDS service point. As 16 Mbit/s and 25 Mbit/s access
classes are offered only as part of discrete closed user groups and
subject to Identified Traffic Connection charges, the costing has been
based on 2 Mbit/s and 10 Mbit/s access classes only. Of the 189 sites
whose details were provided for the costing exercise, 121 were located
within 25 km of an SMDS service point and 52 were over 25 km. Sixteen
sites had either no postcode or the wrong postcode, so an assumption has
been made that they have an average distance of 67 km - the mean
distance of the 52 sites which are over 25 km - giving a total of 68
sites which are an average of 42 km over 25 km. The resulting costs for
the 2 Mbit/s and 10 Mbit/s access classes are as follows:
2 Mbit/s access class
Connection charge = £9,000 x 189 sites » £1.7
Annual rental (up to 25 km) = £16,000 x 189 sites » £3.0
Additional charge over 25 km = 68 sites x 42 km x £1580km » £4.5
10 Mbit/s access class
Connection charge = £33,000 x 189 sites » £6.2
Annual rental (up to 25 km) = £55,000 x 189 sites » £10.4
Additional charge over 25 km = 68 sites x 42 km x £1580/km » £4.5
Total annual rental = £10.4 million + £4.5 million »
- It should be noted that these costs are for budgetary purposes only
and exclude VAT. A more detailed breakdown would result as part of a
tendering process for the provision of a UK library network.
- In addition, these costs do not include hardware costs such as
routers and associated SMDS cards for each of the 189 local network
sites. An allowance of £0.4 million for connections and £6.4
million rentals for a 10Mb/s service has been built into the overall
funding proposals to allow for these.
- Typical bandwidths per site with SMDS are 0.5 to 2 Mbit/s, and the
service supports only data applications. It is ideal for LAN traffic and
relatively large numbers of sites. However, where the total aggregate
bandwidth per site is around 5 Mbit/s or is growing rapidly, an ATM
network may be a more cost-effective solution compared with the 10
Mbit/s service quoted above, and additionally provides the ability to
support real-time applications such as voice and video alongside the
- The diagram below shows a very simple model of connecting four of the
189 sites, with each site having a single physical connection to the
SMDS 'cloud', allowing it to communicate, in theory, to any other site
connected to the cloud. SMDS uses incoming and outgoing address
screening to form closed user groups, thereby maintaining security.
- While SMDS already offers a gateway which allows customers high-speed
access to and from the wider Internet community - as indicated in the
diagram above - costs for such Internet access have not been included.
- In addition to providing the 'network' to link all the library
authority networks, SMDS has the capability to connect the 'network' to
other intranets such as the academic networks - for example SuperJANET -
as shown in the diagram below.
- Where two or more customers' intranets join together, this forms what
is becoming known as an 'extranet'. Again, the introduction of a cloud
network such as SMDS can simplify the process of integration of already
existing systems, at least at the network level. The 'new' site(s) has
only to connect to the cloud, using the single physical connection, to
then be able to establish connectivity to all the other sites. The fact
that connectivity is changed through software rather than hardware means
that connections can be rapidly established and changed in response to a
physical or logical restructuring of the organisation.
Information for All (1996). Millennium Libraries: A National Public
Library Network. Cambridge: Information for All.
CIPFA (1995). Public Library Statistics: Actuals 1993-4. London:
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