UNINET: An Inter-University Computer Network

Jos Luhukay and Bagio Budiardjo
Computer Science Center - University Indonesia


This paper discusses UNINET, a proposed inter-University computer network in Indonesia. The network is intended to provide network service and access mainly for educators and researches in the computer field, and for administrators of state universities/ institutes. Combining computer technology telecommunication facilities, it is a logical network utilizing the services of several physical networks. Nodes can be in the form of local-area networks (LAN's) and single-host nodes. The network's architecture and functions are discussed and the implementation plans briefly laid out.


The dependency of modern man upon the computer is getting increasingly irrevocable. Computer technology, both hardware and software, is expanding and improving faster than most of us can keep pace. Much of our work is done by computers, from keeping track of bank accounts, process control in industry to adjusting the fuel mixture in automobile carburetors. Some major industries, such as banking, process such vast volumes of data that their task of information management would be impossible without computers. On university campuses, the realization that numerical tasks can not be completed without computers is deeply rooted. The control of library facilities, maintenance of student record and management of entrance examinations are but a few of the potential computer applications in these environments.

This paper focuses on one particular facet of computer technology - that of computer networking between university environments. The term "computer network" is used to include any hardware/software entity that may serve to link computer systems in an orderly manner so as to establish inter-computer communications. The network only concern the exchange of information between systems, and not the internal functioning of each individual system. This information transfer is performed by means of physical media for systems interconnection.

The Next sections describe the proposed network architecture and its underlying design philosophy, the institutional frame work and a brief discussion of the technical aspects. For practical purposes, the term "inter-university computer network" is abbreviated to UNINET in this paper. However, this is by no means the official name by which the network will actually be known.

Design Philosophy

UNINET is intended to provide educators and researchers in the computer field with resource sharing and communication capabilities. Administrators will benefit from the remote data access feature which supports integrated processing activities among various organizations.

The design of the network is guided by three main principles

  1. UNINET is to be available first to any state university/ institute and the Ministry of Education and Culture. To promoted the cooperation in computer-oriented education and research, and administrative data processing.
  2. Second, it is also to be available to other interested post-secondary educational institution active in the computer field, and to any industrial and government organization in Indonesia which is engaged in computer-related education and research, and special-purpose databases.
  3. Third, it should be capable of utilizing the various existing (and planned) physical communication facilities in order to attain the best (i.e. the most economical) network configuration.

Network Architecture

By serving the user community with network facilities and access, UNINET will enable institution to participate trough a network interface. It is a logical network utilizing the services of various physical networks. Figure I shows UNINET's logical architecture. Participating nodes will consist of local-area-networks(LAN's) and single-host systems. This implies that UNINET will not accommodate direct terminal hookups. Instead, nodes are required to possess a certain level of intelligence, which can be implemented through "gateways", if the node is itself a network or, in the case of single-host nodes, through a network interface. Practically this gateways are similar to the network interfaces, in that they both must interface the local communication characteristics to the attributes of the physical network (for example: X.25 ) used by UNINET. They can thus both be based on the same microcomputer, but configured (and programmed) differently.


Figure 1: Logical Network Architecture

A Layered architecture is proposed to achieve systems modularity and improve compatibility. The proliferation of machines and communication protocols have made it necessary to maintain and architecture versatile enough interface properly with various systems. The open systems Interconnection scheme [ISO 79] lends itself nicely into this requirement. Although there my be some disadvantages to be gained far outweigh the problems.

The LAN's will conceivably be a collection of Ethernet systems [MeBo76], high-speed fiber-optics systems such as described for example in [CRKL81], and other LAN architecture.

Four types of nodes will exist, categorized by the level of services rendered. The first is the common user (CU) node, which pertains to nodes whose participation in the network mainly consists of the exchange of mail message and the submittal of computing jobs to other (remote) nodes (The various functions that UNINET will serve are discussed later). The second is the regional service center (RCS) node, which is capable of performing network services for CU's in its "region" in addition to being a user itself. An RSC is planned to have more computing power than the CU's in its (geographic) region. At the national level UNINET will have four national service centers (NSC' s), each with ample computing power to support requests originating from any RSC or CU. These four NSC's will be located in Bandung, Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya. The fourth type of node is the special service centers (SSC' s).These nodes will render support to the network in the form of access to specialized databases, bibliographic services, cartographic data accesses, etc. It is also conceivable to have a powerful number cruncher as an SSC.

Institutional Framework

The planning and development activities of UNINET will be sponsored by and conducted under the auspices of the Directorate General of Higher Education, Department of Education and Culture. For main tasks are identified, namely the overall management of the project, policy support, organizational support and technical support. The last three tasks tackle the details of the development process while the first task includes cooperation with other organizations outside the Department.

Network Functions

A user interfacing with a computer network may want to perform any combination of the usual network functions, namely:

Of these functions, the first three constitute the most favorable candidates for initial implementation in UNINET. They are relatively easy to implement, and will develop a level of familiarity among the user community which in turn will promote a conducive climate for further cooperation.

In developed countries, electronic mail is widely use for communication among individuals in a given organization and more recently, among peers belonging to different organizations. In the past few years a number of such mail systems became operational, among others MAILNET [HeLL82] it uses a star topology with dial-up polling during reduced-rate periods (I .e night time). A user can create, send, and receive messages and documents on his/her own local system even if the correspondent is a user of a totally different system. A computer located at the hub of the network performs all of the functions a post-office clerk, viz. Dealing with different envelope formats, sorting of letters, making decisions about how to deliver the letter, and how respond to a variety of errors. In addition to this, MAILNET' s electronic clerk makes the necessary copies of messages sent to multiple recipients.

The proposed initial phase for UNINET is an electronic mail system very much like MAILNET. While waiting for s public packet switching network for Indonesia, dial-up facilities can be utilized, albeit at a quite high cost. A computer In Jakarta or Bandung can be used as the hub where post master functions are implemented. Development of the necessary software will be a very valuable experience in implementing subsequent phases of the network. Files can be transferred and handled by the mail system just like ordinary messages, although size limitations need to be implemented. Batch jobs specified with the required control statements can be submitted to the queue handler at remote site, providing that necessary permissions (and accounting information) are secured beforehand. In this manner files and batch jobs are processed similar to common mail messages. The different being that files are sent to the files handler at the target computer, and the batch jobs are sent with the queue handler as the recipient.

Implementation Plans

Rather than tackling the physical problems of network development, it is proposed to concentrate on the higher layer protocol and software problems. Experience gained in the initial stage will not only improve the confidence of the developers, but more importantly, promote a positive attitude towards resource sharing among universities / institutes, and possibly other organizations as well. It is conceivable to have an electronic mail system among the four NSC' s by the end of the first year. It is hope that may that time a working packet switching network exists, so that gateway and interface units can be designed and tested. This will bring us well into the third year of implementation, by which time LAN' s will be implemented at some of the nodes. The fourth and final year of the five-year plan can then be dedicated to the development of the other network functions.



The original paper was written for the "Asia Electronics Symposium", Jakarta, 19-20 October 1983. This reproduction was typed in by Rika Novita and HTML-ized by Rahmat M. Samik-Ibrahim.