Internet2 gets high-speed upgrade

At the annual fall meeting of Internet2 member schools last week in Chicago, Internet2 officials unveiled the first major segment of a new advanced network between New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, with an initial bandwidth capacity of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps)–or 10 times the previous network’s capacity. This new segment marks the first step in an ambitious plan to increase the capacity and flexibility of advanced networking to serve the growing needs of research and educational facilities nationwide, Internet2 officials said.

“The Internet2 community today celebrates both its 10-year history and an important moment in our future,” said Douglas Van Houweling, Internet2 president and CEO. “The advanced network our community is creating through collaboration and partnership will serve as a new and even greater platform for discovery, learning, and understanding.”

NYSERNet, the research and education network serving New York state, has become the first regional network to connect to the new 100 Gbps Internet2 network infrastructure.

The additional bandwidth is most likely to be used for the exchange of data among member universities, but just to demonstrate its capabilities, audience members were treated to a high-definition video conference during the meeting’s first general session.

Tim Lance, president and chief executive officer of NYSERNet in New York, demonstrated the first application over the new network by speaking to and answering questions from meeting participants via uncompressed, high-definition video conferencing technology developed by the University of Washington and the ResearchChannel.

The video conference gave meeting participants in Chicago a detailed tour of the NYSERNet collocation facility and the network equipment that supports the new Internet2 network.

“NYSERNet is pleased to be the first connector to Internet2’s new network,” Lance said. “In the next few months, we will also be enabling a dynamic provisioning capability … bringing the full flexibility and power of these resources to all of our members.”

The new network is focused mainly on high-end research and scientific activities for the time being, but eventually more applications for the K-12 community will surface, an Internet2 representative said. An example of one such research activity involves radio astronomers using multiple telescopes throughout the world.

Using the new Internet2 network, researchers can connect the telescopes on the network and create one large virtual telescope, where in the past researchers had to compile data from each telescope individually and then combine them for a final reading. Now, researchers can link the telescopes together and perform a real-time reading and analysis of all the data they receive from all the telescopes.

The new network also will allow users to call up additional bandwidth as needed, so they can allocate this bandwidth rapidly to those places that need it. It will provide not just greater bandwidth, but also greater flexibility, said the representative.

For instance, the new network reportedly offers the capacity for researchers to exchange terabyte-scale data sets in seconds, or the flexibility to allocate smaller amounts of bandwidth for network research.

“The community control, reliability, and flexibility of the new Internet2 network makes it ideal for testing and developing … new networking technologies,” said Steve Cotter, Internet2 director of network services.

The Internet2 organization first announced its plan to deploy this new advanced nationwide research network in June, in a joint release with Level 3 Communications. Its deployment is moving from east to west, with New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, and Buffalo being connected in the first phase. Raleigh, Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville, and Indianapolis are scheduled in phase two, and cities will continue to be connected until the fourth phase ends on the West Coast.

The network, on schedule for full deployment by mid-2007, will support a full range of production IP services, as well as new on-demand, dedicated circuits and sub-wavelength services for the most demanding network applications and experimentation, officials said. Commercial companies, led by Level 3 Communications, are supplying the connectivity, and researchers are working on software and applications.

Internet2 officials are working with member universities and regional Internet2 organizations to determine what equipment members will need to take advantage of the upgraded infrastructure. Many schools will not need any additional equipment, said one Internet2 representative, but regional organizations are holding workshops to help members understand the new technical requirements.

Roughly 10 million university students nationwide reportedly use the Internet2 network for research and education. Several K-12 school systems also have access to the network through member universities, though figures were not available by press time.



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