SURFnet as an inspiration for open innovation in HE collaboration

SURFnet in the Netherlands is roughly equivalent to JISC in terms of the role they play in the HE sector. They are doing some great work that is relevant to our support model and there is a great demonstration of open innovation at SURFnet that inspires JISC for the new ideas and services.

The Rave project has been mentioned earlier on this blog as an excellent example of open innovation. SURFnet was one of the initiating partners of Rave and donated the code of their local OpenSocial portal to the Rave project. However, if you follow the Rave activity closely, on the mailing list for example, you won’t see many people from SURF present there or contributing to that project. Does that mean they have simply dumped their code and moved on? Yes, but no! And that’s an interesting example of the enabling role SURFnet is playing in driving innovation in the HE sector in the Netherlands.

First some context. SURFnet provides many services to their HE community, centred around:

  • Federation services to enable single sign-on
  • Group management services that allow institutions to create and manage groups within and across institutions
  • Standards-based integration of services using the OpenSocial standard
  • Cloud-based services to enable institutions to collaborate

The platform that you will use to access all of these services is not centrally provided by SURFnet. That doesn’t mean that they do not support institutions that are looking at ways of integrating the tools for their users. If an institution wishes to build a portal on open source, SURFnet provides support to help them build it on the Apache Rave project.

All the code that SURFnet is developing for their services is released as open source with a permissive licence, often Apache 2. This enables other partners, such as JISC, to get started without the need to procure any specific software. Furthermore, it enables partners to contribute back and further improve the code for everyone. It would be great if we can build on that SURF model and collaborate with them to enable a similar best practice cross-institutional environment. And, even better, enable the creation and management of groups internationally! We are working on it, so stay tuned..