Zürich was a real contrast to Prague. I settled into an expensive hotel with small rooms and crossed the street to a beer house, where I feasted on three kinds of sausages, each accompanied by a large frothy mug of local beer.

The next day, I went to meet Urs Eppenberger, a technical manager at SWITCH who explained how the Swiss research network was being established. SWITCH, which stands for Swiss Telecommunication System for Higher Education and Research, was established six years ago by the federal government and the cantons of Switzerland to start and maintain a university research network and a national supercomputer center.

Urs works in the SWITCH network office, which consists of eight engineers, an administrator, and lots of computers. SWITCH is a network infrastructure with services like e-mail. The infrastructure consists simply of leased lines and Cisco boxes installed at 11 sites around the country, plus links into the X.25 Telepac network. The interface between the campus and SWITCH is clearly defined at the Ethernet plug. SWITCH maintains its own system, including configuring the routers.

Originally, the network was going to be religiously OSI, using services such as X.400, FTAM, VTP, and any other OSI services available. The system quickly switched over to a more pragmatic approach, supporting TCP/IP, X.400 over OSI, and even DECnet.

The network is very Swiss. It is carefully planned and carefully implemented. Impeccably engineered, not too adventurous, and focusing on offering a reliable production service, SWITCH is an orderly addition to the carefully manicured Swiss landscape.