CREN Members to Vote on Closing
December 05, 2002 - Trustees of the Corporation for Research and Educational Networking (CREN) have approved a resolution for the membership to vote to dissolve the corporation effective as soon as appropriate so that reasonable care can be taken to transition services and personnel.
If approved by the CREN membership, the venerable higher-education technology association will close down after more than twenty years of service to the higher education community.
Under the directorship of Judith Boettcher, CREN provided a range of membership services to more than 220 universities and colleges around the United States, many of which focused on networking and network security issues. CREN was well known for its "TechTalk" series of regular webcasts featuring expert speakers on a wide range of technology subjects.
The Board's reluctant decision to recommend termination of operations comes as a result of a significant decline in membership revenues, together with steadily rising operating expenses.
"The decision wasn't easy to make, but it was the responsible thing to do," said Ira Fuchs, President of the Board of Trustees. "The business model wasn't sustainable, so we felt it was in the best interest of the member institutions to close our doors."
In recent years CREN focused almost exclusively on PKI services, becoming the first higher education root certificate authority. However, even in light of recent national interest in certificate-related security planning, the move to widespread awareness and adoption of new security-related technologies has been slower than anticipated.
Discussions are currently underway with Internet2 to maintain the CREN CA root, which is now available in the Opera browser, and the board is considering options for continuation of the TechTalk webcasts by another national organization.
CREN's roots extend back more than 20 years to one of the earliest experiments in computer networking. Starting in 1981, a collaboration between Ira H. Fuchs and Greydon Freeman of the City University of New York and Yale University, respectively, led to the creation of BITNET (the "Because It's Time" network). "The prescience of BITNET/CREN in creating an international precursor to the Internet at the dawn of modern networking and paving the way for the current state of networking is amazing," said John Bucher, Vice-President of the Board of Trustees.
BITNET eventually extended across North America and was linked to a European counterpart called EARN (European Academic and Research Network) in 1982. Other cooperating international networks joined, in the Ensuing years, to make BITNET a worldwide network. On May 27th, 1987, the articles of incorporation for BITNET/CREN were signed by Ira Fuchs, Ken King, and Ray Neff. At its peak in 1991-2, this network connected organizations in 49 countries, for the electronic non-commercial exchange of information in support of research and education, and CREN's membership rose to over 1400 institutions including many overseas. BITNET was for several years the largest academic network in the world for computer-based communications. It also developed the concept of the email list service (and tools such as LISTSERV and LISTPROC), by which a person could conveniently send email to a broad group. "These days we take all our one-to-many and many-to-many communications tools for granted. Long before there were web-based chat-rooms and instant messaging tools, CREN created the first messaging tool beyond one-to-one e-mail," said Ken King, Board Member Emeritus. CREN was formed in 1989, as the result of a merger of BITNET Inc. and CSNET.