​Voice of the GÉANT Board: Valter Nordh​

Continuing our series of Board member interviews, CONNECT spoke to Valter Nordh, Chief Technology Officer at SUNET and GÉANT Board member since 2015, about the GÉANT Community Committee and his hopes for the Board.

Valter Nordh has been CTO of the Swedish NREN SUNET since 2013 where his responsibilities focus mainly on the field of identity access management. Valter’s work commitments also include NORDUnet and the University of Gothenburg. He played numerous important roles in the GÉANT GN3 and GN4 projects, where his work has helped to influence several key areas including Trust and Identity. He currently chairs the GÉANT Community Committee.

Valter, what is the main purpose of the GÉANT Community Committee?

The GÉANT Community Committee’s (GCC) main purpose is to oversee the GÉANT Community Programme (GCP), formerly known as the TERENA Technical Programme. Its main objectives are to help NRENs better support the needs of their research and education communities and to provide key support in the areas most important to NRENs. Another aspect of the GCC is to assist GÉANT in community-driven collaborative initiatives and mutually assist NRENs in providing students, lecturers and scientists the best possible internet and ICT facilities, by sharing ideas, best practices, harmonising procedures and picking the best technologies.

Can you tell us about some of its achievements and how they are helping the community?

The most widely known service is undoubtedly eduroam; a less known fact is perhaps that the idea of eduGAIN was also nurtured and developed during discussions within some of the Task Forces (TF). Another example is ownCloud, a filesync and collaboration service used by many NRENs, which emerged from a discussion in the TF Storage, now known as the Special Interest Group-Cloudy Interoperable Software Stacks (SIG-CISS).

How would you like to see the GCC develop in the future?

As the GCC mostly plays an overseeing role for the GCP, I think that the answer should focus on the future development of the latter. The GCP draws from the experience and expertise within the community, GÉANT and the GÉANT Project, it supports ideas generated by TFs and SIGs: it is a very agile system as it enables NRENs to cooperate freely on any chosen topic.

One of the areas we are currently working on is how ideas from the GCP, when linked with the right tasks, programmes or funding streams, can be further developed and adopted by the GÉANT Project. It’s important that the GCP retains its agility whilst making the best use of the GÉANT Project’s stability and long term goals. The connections with the Project will certainly develop further and this is based on the demonstrated evidence of the transfer of knowledge and innovative ideas between the GCP, the GÉANT Project and other areas. In relation to the subject of idea generation, it should be noted that many of the ideas that emerge at TF and SIG level often do not pass the final scrutiny and are never implemented. This is a foreseeable and expected consequence of the involvement of many very skilled individuals from different backgrounds operating in a very fertile and stimulating environment.

What is your main area of responsibility on the GÉANT Board? 

The GCC and the GÉANT Board, both elected by the General Assembly, have two distinct functions. I have now been serving as part of the combined GÉANT Board role for two years – I was previously in the TERENA TEC as well as in the interim GÉANT Board. My responsibility is to report back on progress in the area of the GCC and I am currently co-chairing the GÉANT CEO Recruitment Committee with Sabine Jaume-Rajaonia.

How do you think the GÉANT Board can best support the community?

The GÉANT Board is made up of individuals who are endorsed and trusted by the wider community and needs constant input from GÉANT’s many stakeholders: the communication flow needs to be continuous and transparent at all times as I believe that the decisions made by the Board should (generally) not come as a surprise, but rather should be logical and expected. The Board not only has a clear legal function, but also a nurturing role, it is responsible for looking after GÉANT whilst also keeping up to date with the NRENs’ and the European Commission’s agenda; a great deal of work goes into identifying challenges and working out compromises.

As a Board member, one of the particular challenges that I face is the shift of mental focus required between my day-to-day problem-solving job at SUNET, to the broader mindset required of a Board member. We need to ask GÉANT the right questions, understand the full picture and also challenge GÉANT to enable it to find the best solutions to its challenges; the Board shall not and cannot provide all the solutions.

The best way to support the community is by making sure that GÉANT keeps doing things that are valued by the NRENs and fully in line with their objectives; this way GÉANT will remain relevant and interesting in the eyes of the community thereby ensuring mutual interest and continuous engagement.