CIGBnet is the network for the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in Havana, Cuba, and affiliated institutions. It was created in 1991 to provide computer communications, database access, information services and data processing to the cuban scientific research community on the fields of Biology, Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering.
CIGBnet is operated by the Network Services Group of the Automation Division of CIGB. It provides access to computer networking services to more than 900 users at:
- Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB)/Havana
- Center for Biological Research (CIB)/Havana
- Camaguey Biotechnology Center (CIGB-Camaguey)/Camaguey
- Sancti Spiritus Biotechnology Center (CIGB-Sancti Spiritus)/Sancti Spiritus
LANs located at the above institutions are linked together using both dialup UUCP technology and RENACYT, the national academic X.25 network, operated by ICIMAF/CIDET.
Protocols running on the LAN side are IPX/SPX and TCP/IP, giving access to both Netware-based and UNIX-based services.
Services provided by CIGBnet range from electronic mail and group communication and conferencing using notice board software and mailing lists, up to very popular Internet-based services such as WWW and Gopher, but on a local-only access scheme.
CIGBnet has no direct access to the Internet by now. Exchange of information and electronic mail with users on the Internet is made through an dialup UUCP link to WEB Networks/NIRV Centre (web.net domain) in Toronto, Canada. WEB Networks/NIRV Centre is an APC member.
CIGBnet has been providing e-mail gateway services to the Internet to a wide group of cuban research and educational institutions since 1993:
- National Neurosciences Center
- Central Institute for Digital Research
- Havana University
- Oriente University
- Center for Clinical Research
CIGBnet maintains dialup-based and X.25-based UUCP links with all of the above and other main cuban networks:
- CENIAI/Ministry of Sciences, Environment and Technology
- Infomed/Health Electronic Information Network
- Tinored/Youth Computer Club-NGOs
- BIOMUNDI Consulting
- Electronic Mail
- Mailing lists
- File servers
- INotice Boards/Group conferencing
- Netserver (E-mail-based service for biological information databases search and retrieve and remote computing)
- Bibliographic information services
Note: Locally available (inside LANs)
User support is provided from network operations up to desktop software installation, assistance and maintenance. Network training courses have been organized periodically. Postmastering and remote support is provided to all networks using the e-mail gateway services.
The Network Services Group has completed two research projects, and the 3rd one is underway.
On developing countries noisy phone lines, lack of network services providers and old and obsolete communication infrastructures are a common ground that challenges networking development. Reducing the time users remain online becomes extremely important to lower costs of operation and minimizing possibility of data loss due to line failures during online sessions.
PWGlue is an off-line email management system, based on Tom Dell’s Waffle and David Harris’ Pegasus Mail. Glue code to get those two shareware packages working together was developed at CIGB.
PWglue can be used as a multi-user (not multi-tasking) system or in a single user version. Users benefits from the easy-to-use interface of Pegasus Mail for reading, answering and composing their electronic mail, and the robustness and reliability of Waffle’s UUCP implementation for exchanging electronic-mail with a central host acting as its smart e-mail gateway to the internet.
Data batching and compression engines were also added. PWglue can be used with systems based on Smail’s BSMTP (batched SMTP over UUCP) or APC batching. Data compression engines are compatible with UNIX standard compress utility or GNU’s gzip.
PWGlue is currently used by CIGBnet users at remote sites, and also in a number of different networks in Cuba.
For a long time software for analysing biological sequences data that run on UNIX minicomputers and workstations have been developed and made freely available on the Internet. The use of similar applications running on DOS-based PCs had the disadvantage of wasting a lot of time due to the limitations of DOS. Porting those applications to versions of UNIX OS running on PCs was the first part of the Netserver project. Then, database search software was either adapted or devised to complement a suite of services that became an everyday tool for scientists using CIGBnet services.
The third step of the project solved the problem of system accessibilty from remote sites of the network. An email-based remote job server was developed, which receives user requests, executes them and sends the results back to the user.
Since its installation in 1993, Netserver has served more than 9000 queries from users on 11 cuban research institutions.During the neuropathy epidemy in Cuba in 1994, the use of Netserver’s services helped to shorten researching time.
Delfos is an IP-based client-server information system under development, aimed at gathering and spreading information produced at every level of the CIGB and affiliated centers. Once the system is fully operable, it will help reduce the use of printed documentation while speeding up the flow of information of the whole organization.
CIGBnet plans to connect to the Internet as one of its main goals. Since 1994 InterNIC assigned a class C IP number which is almost fully used.
Also, establishing local IP-based links between neighbour networks is a strategy followed, on the belief that collaborative efforts and team-work is the basement of the Internet success and importance.
The CIGBnet staff is composed by 4 engineers and 1 system analyst, full time. Part-time support is provided by other teams of the Automation Division of CIGB.
- Executive Director: Luis Luaces <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Technical Director: Carlos Armas <email@example.com>
- Network Operations: Felix Armona <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Information Services: Nelson Lopez <email@example.com>
- User Support: Viena Garcia <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CIGBnet staff has received special training at relevant networking organizations and events, like the Internet Society Developing Countries Workshops and some other courses and training activities.
CIGBnet has collaborated extensively with the Internet Society, providing volunteer training support for the INET’95 Developing Countries Networking Workshop in Hawaii; and also with APC, providing volunteer training and support for Ecuanex in Quito, Ecuador.
On the national arena, CIGBnet keeps active collaboration programs with UONet/University of Oriente, ICID, BIOMUNDI Consulting, Cneuro/National Neurosciences Center, Infomed/Health Information Network and CIDET/ICIMAF.
CIGBnet can be considered a successful exercise of low-cost computer networking. The use of Internet de-facto standards and public-domain and shareware applications have been extremely important factors on keeping low costs of operation.
CIGBnet has received a strong support since the beggining of the project from a vast group of people and organizations.