An Introduction to the ERG and the ERG Testbeds

The University of Aberdeen is among the UK's top research universities, as noted in the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) - a year long independent evaluation of the quality of research undertaken across Britain's universities. The University provides a set of web pages that describe the University or Aberdeen and why students should consider studying in Aberdeen's world-leading research environment.

The Electronics Research Group (ERG) of the School of Engineering part of the College of Physical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen has a range of experience relating to the design, simulation, optimisation, and benchmarking of systems. It is functions as one of the School of Engineering Research Groups.

ERG has labs are in the Fraser Noble Building, and additional offices in the dot.rural DE hub in the MacRobert building.

This page contains the following sections:

Brief Overview of Activities

The group has an excellent record in developing new techniques, piloting applications of leading-edge solutions, publishing technical articles and a firm commitment to advancing open standards.

The group's laboratories are on the 2nd floor of the West Wing of the Fraser Noble building. It comprises a suite of 4 research laboratories, a test of reaching/research laboratories and a small purpose-built project workshop with access to test facilities. These facilities were complete refurbished in 2012 as a part of a £4M investment to create a state of the art teaching an research environment.

Our style of research fosters dynamic close engagement between researchers, industry and users bringing together teams to develop new applications and explore advanced techniques. Close working with Computer Scientists and other disciplines has enabled an ambitious portfolio of interdisciplinary applied research. Nowhere is this more evident than in the range of dot.rural projects funded as a part of the £11.8 million investment by RCUK in the Aberdeen Rural Digital Economy Hub (dot.rural).This participation is refelected in the groups engagement in the dot.rural Digital Economy hub located in the MacRobert building, where many group members also have offices.

The research group comprises academic staff, research fellows, research assistants and PhD students who perform cutting edge research into Internet Engineering and related technologies to support new applications. We believe this mix of activities provides a stimulating and friendly environment in which students and researchers can both collaborate together and flourish as individuals. Activities focussing on networking over challenging links (e.g. mobile and satellite links for Internet access) include:

Internet Engineering activities include:

Examples of some current projects are provided on our research page. ERG capabilities include two research testbeds in dedicated space on the 3rd floor of the Fraser Noble building. These testbeds were developed with equipment donations from the University, industry and investment as a result of the ongoing portfolio of funded research.

A Brief History of ERG

ERG was established by a group of computer hardware engineers and communications researchers. The experience has been built-up over more than a decade through research programmes funded by organisations including: Thales-Alenia Space, EADS Astrium, Defence Research Agency (Malvern), Satellite Communications Centre (DRA Defford), Intelsat, European Space Agency (ESA), British National Space Centre (BNSC), The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Delta Communications (UK), the EC via its IST Programmes, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and consultancy to private companies. A number of research projects and consultancy contracts have also been completed, and the group has welcomed a range of PhD projects sponsored by Industry and other funding bodies.

Some examples of ERG research has included:

ERG was founded by Prof. Tim Spracklen and is currently coordinated by Prof. Gorry Fairhurst.

Internet Network Engineering Testbed (INET)

ERG operates its own dedicated research network. This section describes this Internet network engineering testbed. The testbed feeds all research laboratories, an applications lab via CAT-5e, remote test sites on campus linked via fibre, and connection to the main campus network. The links use Ethernet operating at 100/1000/10000 Mbps supported by a range of switches and routers, forming a number of "sandboxed" test networks. The network fully supports IPv4 and IPv6 and is multicast enabled. QoS support may be supplied when needed within the network.

The prime use of the testbed is to investigate communications systems and identify potential performance problems, suggest appropriate techniques which may improve performance, and to analyse the impact of implementing specific techniques. A range of tools (constructed either in-house, purchased, or on loan) are available and may be used to assist in the monitoring, analysis and implementation of communications protocols. The testbed supports active development of open standards, and contribution to open source software projects.

The testbed was moved to purpose-built accommodation in March 2012. It now operates in climate-controlled room with researchers granted remote access to control, logging, and monitoring functions.

Satellite Applications Laboratory Testbed (SALT)

This section describes the ERG Satellite Applications Laboratory Testbed (SALT). SALT is located in the roof-area of the Fraser Noble building. The testbed offers easy access to the satellite and wireless antennas used for remote connectivity. Examples of terminals inclue:

Projects presently utilising this testbed include:

  1. SIRA - Exploring Rural Satellite Internet Access: "There should be nowhere in the UK that you can not work from – broadband must be for all"
  2. ESA HLS-MAC Study: driving forward new efficient techniques for IP-friendly satellite systems.
  3. Astrium Project: Exploring models for QoS through advanced network simulation.
  4. Digital Advanced Rural Testbed: Offering next generation networks to rural consumers to pilot novel applications.

This testbed is used to support application-driven research, with a range of benchmarking and acceptance testing of satellite network equipment.

Guidelines for use of the ERG Network Testbed

The ERG network and servers comprise a mixture of CISCO/HP switches, CISCO routers, and platforms using a diverse range of networking software. The role of the testbeds is to support practical research in Internet Engineering, currently with two themes - one linked to the Internet Society's Transport and Services Working Group within the IETF, the other linked to the Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) series of transmission standards.

The ERG network testbed provides an experimental service. This may be modified or updated to support development of network, transport and application protocols and to assess their performance. Although ERG will seek high availability of the service, failure of this service shall not impact other university business. In consultation with DIT, ERG will provide appropriate firewall and other security measures to protect the University network and the ERG network testbed.

All ERG staff will use the production University mail system for email relating to the business activities of the University. The University-hosted web server will also be the primary point of contact for information about the research group, and summaries of the research portfolio.

All traffic to/from ERG may be monitored within ERG and used to collect traffic flow and protocol analysis data. To afford useful data, ERG needs to deploy experimental services with other Internet sites participating in Internet Engineering - these services need to be open, visible and carry representative data to evaluate deployment of new protocols and procedures. ERG will support a range of experimental services, including Email, Web, and other IP-based services set in a research context. This activity will be coordinated with DIT/ABMAN who provide the local point of connection to the JANET network.

G Fairhurst
B Robertson
6th Nov 2008

Further Information

To find more about opportunities for involvement or collaboration, please contact:

Prof G Fairhurst
Fraser Noble Building
School of Engineering
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen, AB24 3UE, UK

Page Updated Jan 2013