About SURF
SURF is a cooperative association of Dutch educational and research institutions in which the members combine their strengths. Within SURF, we work together to acquire or develop the best possible digital services, and to encourage knowledge sharing through continuous innovation. The members are the owners of SURF.
SURF Cooperative

There is a growing awareness in society and education that the deployment of intelligent technology requires reflection and guidance to exploit opportunities and manage risks, which the technology also entails.

icoon team



The history of SURF

SURF's history goes back to 1971, although SURF itself was not founded until 1987. How so? You can read it in the timeline containing SURF's highlights through out time. For more than 50 years SURF's been the innovative force for ict in education and research. It all starts in Amsterdam, where three institutes want to do computing together.


Foto van magneetschijfeenheden bij SARA in Amsterdam

Computer facilities for complex calculations

In 1971, SURFsara is founded as Stichting Academisch Rekencentrum Amsterdam (SARA) by the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Stichting Mathematisch Centrum (the current Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica). These institutions need computer facilities to perform complex calculations.


Foto van de supercomputer Cyber 205 uit 1984

The first national supercomputer

In 1984, SURFsara commissioned its first supercomputer, the Cyber 205, and from then on fulfilled the role of national supercomputer centre for research and education in the Netherlands. The Cyber 205 offers a peak computing power of 100 megaflops per second.


research day small

Supercomputer users come together

During the first SARA Superday, supercomputer users come together to learn from each other, inspire each other and get advice from SURF experts. The day has since grown into the SURF Research Day, the national conference connecting research, IT and innovation.


Cover van het rapport Samenwerking... reken maar! uit 1985

The Netherlands lags behind, SURF comes to the rescue

In the early 1980s, the Netherlands is lagging behind other countries when it comes to IT. In 1984, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science therefore made five million guilders available for a coherent system of national and local facilities in the field of computerised information processing. A supervisory committee is set up in February 1985 to develop a multi-year plan for this purpose. The name of that guidance committee? Samenwerkende Universitaire Rekenfaciliteiten (Collaborating University Computing Facilities), or SURF!


SURF logo 1988

SURF foundation sees the light of day

The multi-year plan is taken up by a project group. On 25 March 1987, it becomes the SURF foundation, which is set up by the fourteen Dutch universities. Soon universities of applied sciences, UMCs, research institutions, and later secondary schools start using SURF's services. SURF becomes the collaborative organisation for network and computer services for education and research in the Netherlands.


Eerste logo van SURFnet

SURFnet is going to build a nationwide network

In the newly established SURF Foundation, it soon becomes apparent that educational institutions have an increasing need for services to exchange data and communicate with each other. A nationwide computer network is needed to which all users and services can be connected. As well as a professional organisation to make such a network a success. To this end, SURFnet bv is set up on 1 January 1988, a collaboration between SURF and the Dutch PTT.


Foto van de ondertekening van het contract tussen SURF en SPSS

Easier and cheaper licensing

In the 1980s, institutions concluded their own contracts with software suppliers. That was relatively expensive, and at the still young SURF, smart minds came up with the idea of taking a bigger approach to licensing. So that research and education institutions could buy licences more easily and cheaply. This initiative results in 1989 in the first agreement for higher education and research, between SURF and SPSS.


Overzichtskaart van het netwerk SURFnet2

The first SURF network: SURFnet2

SURF started developing a network for higher education and research in the late 1980s. The aim is not to become yet another network alongside local university and research networks such as DUnet (Delft), RULnet (Leiden) and TNOnet. The objective is to construct a single network transparent to users: one network that incorporates all networks in higher education and research.

In 1990, the first production version of SURF's network goes live: SURFnet2. This network offers transport facilities based on the Internet protocol (IP) in addition to the then-current X.25 protocol. And that is the protocol that will eventually be used worldwide. The maximum bandwidth of SURFnet2 is 64 kbit/s...


Kop van de website van SURFdiensten in 1996

SURFmarket is founded

After the contract with SPSS, more major deals soon follow, with WordPerfect, Borland, Oracle and Lotus. The club that arranges the licences outgrows its capacity and goes out on its own in 1991: SURFmarket (then called SURFdiensten) is born. From then on, the institutions affiliated to SURF can purchase licences for software via SURF.


Logo of SURFcert from 2007

SURF gets its own CERT

CERT-NL is set up, SURF's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). In CERT-NL, specialists from SURF and the member institutions work together to help the institutions secure their network, and to resolve incidents in the SURF network as quickly as possible. Later, CERT-NL becomes SURFcert.


First major licence agreement with Microsoft

SURF concludes the largest agreement to date, with software giant Microsoft. The licensing model used is new for Microsoft (but common among other suppliers). Microsoft will adopt this model and apply it worldwide.


Logo van GÉANT

European cooperation in GÉANT

SURF is involved as a co-founder in DANTE, the first European network organisation in which research and education networks (NRENs) like SURF work together. DANTE has since been merged into GÉANT. In it, NRENs not only cooperate on networking, but also in other areas such as cloud, security and secure authentication.



AMS-IX: from SURF pilot to largest Internet hub in the Netherlands

For years, the AMS-IX has been the most important Internet hub in the Low Countries. The AMS-IX processes much of the Internet traffic with foreign countries and between Dutch Internet providers. At peak times, the node processes nearly 12 Tbit/s. You would almost forget that the AMS-IX started in 1994 as a pilot project of SURF!


Logo of SIDN

SURF is co-founder of SIDN

SURF is a founding member of SIDN, the Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland, administrator of the .nl top-level domain.


Foto van prins Willem-Alexander die de CAVE bij SURFsara bezoekt

Visualisation for better insight into research results

At SURF, we are not just calculating and storing data. Another important activity is the visualisation of data so that researchers can get a good idea of the results of their research. In 1997, the first national facility for three-dimensional visualisation was created, using a Computer Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE). With stereoscopic LCD glasses on, the researcher imagines himself in the middle of the object of study, e.g. a blood vessel.


Logo van het GigaPort-project

Gigaspeeds with GigaPort

In 1999, the GigaPort project began, in which SURF, together with a number of commercial partners such as Telfort and Cisco, is developing an entirely new network. This should achieve speeds for customer connections of up to 20 Gbit/s.


Poster SURFonderwijsdagen 1999

SURF Education Days bring education and ict together

Starting as a one-day event, SURF Education Days soon became two days where teachers and education support staff come together and get inspired about the latest developments in education and ict. The 25th SURF Education Days will take place in 2023.


Afbeelding van de eerste homepage van SURFspot

SURFspot: legal software at an illegal price

SURF is launching SURFspot, the ict webstore for students and staff in higher education and research. From then on, students and employees will be able to purchase software for home use directly from SURF.


Cheap content licences

In addition to software licences, SURF starts concluding licences for content services from 2001. This starts with licences for university libraries. This will give users easy and inexpensive access to online publications from various publishers.


Logo van de dienst eduroam

Worldwide secure online with eduroam

SURF launched eduroam in 2002. With this service, students and staff can use their institution's wifi network, but also the network of all other institutions that have eduroam. Without having to create a separate account everywhere. To date, it is one of SURF's best-known and most popular services.


Vrouw staat voor het Lisa Rekencluster

National computing cluster

SURF is building the national computing cluster Lisa. This is a centrally managed Linux cluster, ideally suited for large-scale computations. In the same year, the grid infrastructure will become available, culminating in the e-infrastructure we have today.


Laurens Jan Brinkhorst activeert SURFnet6

The first fibre-optic network for education and research

SURFnet6 will be put into service: a fibre-optic network providing not only IP services (internet connectivity), but also optical network services, for example lightpaths (secure and super-fast connections separated from other network traffic).


Afbeelding van de Large Hadron Collider bij CERN

Collaboration with CERN

With Nikhef, SURF is starting as Tier-1 centre for the LHC experiments at CERN in Geneva. This means that some of the data generated by the LHC will be processed at SURF in Amsterdam.


SURFfederation service logo

Log in everywhere with your own institution account

SURF introduces SURFfederatie, thereby achieving an international first: it is the first service that allows users to log in with a single account (their institution account) to cloud services from different suppliers. In 2011, SURFfederatie will be succeeded by SURFconext, which, for example, also offers extra security via multi-factor authentication.



SURF is further expanding its work on licences: it will also conduct tenders on behalf of educational and research institutions.


Foto van Willem-Alexander in het Collaboratorium

Collaboratorium: high-tech visualisation

The Collaboratorium will be inaugurated. This is a high-tech visualisation facility where researchers from business and science can analyse and visualise their data on a multifunctional video wall with (for the time) super-sharp HD screens.


servicelaag SURFnet8 oktober 2019

SURFnet8 delivers speeds up to 400 Gbit/s

SURFnet8's new optical layer, to be implemented in 2017, will enable 400 Gbit/s and make 100 Gbit/s transport capacity the standard. That standard is 1.5 million times faster than SURFnet2, SURF's first production network from 1990.


Afbeelding van mensen in het SURF-kantoor in Utrecht

SURF becomes one

The operating companies SURFsara, SURFmarket, SURFnet and SURFbureau merge. They continue together as SURF. Naturally while maintaining the innovative services for education and research in the Netherlands. SURF has already (in 2015) transformed from a foundation into a cooperative: participating institutions are now members and have direct influence on SURF's policy through the members' council.

But SURF is also a stopping place for members, where they come together to exchange knowledge, ideas and inspiration. And where they work together on innovative solutions in numerous ict areas such as cybersecurity, quantum computing, digital learning materials, study data, open science and artificial intelligence. So that together they can excel in education and research, with the help of ict.


Koningin Máxima opent supercomputer voor Nederlandse wetenschap

National supercomputer Snellius commissioned

The latest generation of the national supercomputer is put into operation: Snellius. It has a peak speed of 6.1 petaflops per second, which is 61 million times more than the Cyber 205 in 1984. But in addition to being faster, Snellius is also a lot more durable than its predecessors. Snellius is 3.4 times faster than its direct predecessor Cartesius, but uses 30% less energy.


SURF stands up for privacy: Google, Microsoft and Zoom adjust terms and conditions

SURF stands up for public values, including the privacy of students and staff in education and research. In various trajectories, SURF (together with partners) succeeded in persuading big-tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Zoom to adjust their terms and conditions. In doing so, we even made it to the New York Times!