Boosting connectivity to support international partnerships for Moroccan scientists

The Moroccan Research and Education Network (MARWAN) has undergone a pivotal upgrade from 1G to 10G in its connectivity from Rabat to London, enhancing its link with the pan-European GÉANT network. This development facilitates increased traffic to various global research and education (R&E) networks and is part of the EU-funded AfricaConnect3 initiative.

This upgrade represents a transformative phase for MARWAN, enabling more robust collaborations between Moroccan researchers, scientists, and students with their global counterparts through high-speed and cost-effective connectivity. It also serves as a crucial preparatory step for the forthcoming MEDUSA submarine cable project. The MEDUSA initiative, backed by the European Commission, aims to deliver high-capacity connectivity with an access capacity of 200Gbps to Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, bridging ties with European peers and helping to reduce the digital divide.

Since its first interconnection with the global R&E network in 2004 through the EUMEDCONNECT project, Morocco has been a leader in regional R&E connectivity. Established in 1998 and operated by the Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique et Technique (CNRST), MARWAN has evolved into its fifth generation (MARWAN 5) as of 2022, now linking over 250 higher education and research institutions across 45 Moroccan cities through 42 connections. MARWAN’s growth has catalyzed the development of educational services, technology transfer, and scientific research within Moroccan universities and research centers, integrating technologies such as High Performance Computing (HPC), eduroam, IPv6, and eduVPN.

Redouane Merrouch, Director of MARWAN, emphasised the significance of the upgrade, stating it not only bolsters scientific collaboration with European researchers but also strategically positions MARWAN for the MEDUSA project.

“Connecting MARWAN to GÉANT has always been a priority for researchers in Morocco. The upgrade to 10 Gbps is an opportunity for our researchers to become even more involved in scientific collaboration with their European counterparts. It is also a key step to prepare ourselves to be part of the MEDUSA project under the best possible conditions,” he said.

Among MARWAN’s notable achievements is hosting the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University’s supercomputer Toubkal, the most powerful in Africa, launched in 2021. This 3.15 petaflops supercomputer, part of the new Africa Supercomputing Centre and backed by the University of Cambridge, boasts over 69,000 cores and 8,000 terabytes of storage, serving as a critical resource for research across the continent.

The impact of MARWAN’s enhanced connectivity was underscored during a 2022 conference in Marrakech. Prof. Yahya Tayalati of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University highlighted the critical need for improved international connectivity to support advanced research, particularly for the university’s participation in the Worldwide LCH Computing Grid and CERN’s ATLAS experiments.

Furthermore, MARWAN’s role extends to international projects such as the Hyper-Kamiokande Collaboration in Japan, which studies neutrinos to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Morocco’s involvement in this collaboration underscores the importance of its upgraded connectivity in fostering significant scientific advancements.

Dr. El Jarrari, a Moroccan physicist working with the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), addressed the European Investment Bank’s MED conference in Barcelona in October 2023. She outlined the transformative potential of projects like MEDUSA in advancing Mediterranean connectivity, essential for managing the vast data generated by collaborations like the ATLAS experiment at CERN, which produces over 10,000 terabytes annually. Her insights emphasised the broader impact of such connectivity enhancements on advancing research, innovation, and international cooperation across the Mediterranean region.


Featured image: Representatives from GÉANT, MARWAN, ASREN and universities in the region meet to celebrate the upgrade. Photo credit: MARWAN

This is an edited version of a story first published on the AfricaConnect3 website: MARWAN: boosting connectivity in Morocco

Published: 04/2024

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