Internet2 launches 100 Gb network

Posted by Mark Raby and Wolfgang Gruener

Chicago (IL) - The Internet2, a network that connects about 200 U.S. universities, has just turned 10 years old and celebrated its birthday with the launch of a new portion that provides a bandwidth of 100 Gb/s. By mid-2007, Internet2 members will be able to transmit Gigabytes of data in a matter seconds rather than minutes and hours.

The launch was officially announced at the Internet2's consortium Fall Member Meeting in Chicago. The 100 Gb segment is operational now between New York, Washington D.C. and New York. The group also announced that NYSERNet, the research and education network consortium of New York State has become the first regional network to connect to the new network infrastructure.

The bandwidth is likely to be used for the exchange of data between universities, but - just to demonstrate the capabilities of the network - Tim Lance, president and CEO of NYSERNet, chose a videoconference for first demonstration. He gave a presentation via an uncompressed high-definition broadcast.

"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 in a prepared statement. "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."

Plans to equip the Internet2 with 100 Gb bandwidth were first announced in June 2006. Since then, the organization has deployed Infinera-built Digital Optical Networking equipment and Core Director Multiservice Switches from Ciena. Juniper's T640 routers provide IP capabilities to the network, Internet2 officials said.

Steve Cotter, Internet2 director of network services believes that supercomputers may be able to directly connect to the upgraded network soon: "With the latest advances in semiconductor devices like field-programmable gate arrays, we might see supercomputers connected at 100 GbE using 10 parallel 10 Gb/s circuits in the not-so-distant future," he said. "The community control, reliability and flexibility of the new Internet2 network makes it ideal for testing and developing these kinds of new networking technologies."

The Internet2 consortium was formed in October 1996 and now comprises more than 200 universities throughout the country, along with 70 corporations, 45 government agencies, and 50 international partners. Its mission statement is to bring "research and academia together with technology leaders from industry, government and the international community, Internet2 promotes collaboration and innovation that has a fundamental impact on the future of the Internet."

The name "Internet2" is often interpreted as the next version of a public Internet. However, Internet2 is an academia-exclusive technology that will not be made available to private users. The network not only provides a huge bandwidth to transfer data, but is also considered as playground for scientists to solve problems of the common Internet and develop new technologies - such optimized versions of TCP/IP - to improve its performance.

The Internet2 consortium regularly publishes new records in data transmission. The current "Internet2 Land Speed Record" stands at 208,800 Tb-meters/s. 585 GB of data were transferred across 30,000 km (about 18,600 miles) at an average rate of 6.96 Gb/s.

Last year, two of the biggest entertainment organizations, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced an affiliation with Internet2 to use the network, among other things, as a space to test technology related to digital distribution and rights management.