The big advances in the Internet - as well as its initial development - historically have been tied to the educational and military sectors. That is not changing today.
GigaOm has an interesting story about a grant from the National Science Foundation to Johns Hopkins University for development of a 100 Gbps network. It will traffic data between the school and other locales including Google, the story says. It adds that gear from Cisco, Arista, Solarflare and Nvidia will be utilized. The piece adds details about the topography of the new network. The vision of Dr. Alex Szalay, who is heading up the project, is nothing if not ambitious:
In his mind, the new way of using massive processing power to filter through petabytes of data is an entirely new type of computing which will lead to new advances in astronomy and physics, much like the microscope's creation in 17th century led to advances in biology and chemistry. When thought of in that light, the creation of 100 gigabit per second (Gbps) research network at Johns Hopkins becomes not just a fast network, but an essential tool for research and discovery, an essential component of the 21st-century microscope.
The Johns Hopkins project is far from the only ongoing initiative. This week, for instance, the North Carolina Research and Education Network - which is operated by MCNC (which initially was the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina) - said that East Carolina University has gotten a 10 Gbps upgrade. The press release offers details on the funding of the $144 million project. The upgrade, the release says, will support online and distance learning programs, videoconferencing, economic development and other services. It also will encourage innovation in the state's coastal region.
Still another recent piece of news on the high-tech, higher-education front was the near-completion of a network that will connect 63 universities and colleges in Indiana. The $35.8 million project soon will connect 21 Ivy Tech Community College campuses to the I-Light network. I-Light and Zayo Bandwidth were awarded $25.1 million from the Broadband Stimulus. Those funds were supplemented by monies from I-Light and Zayo. The release says that a new element of the project includes 626 miles of fiber connecting Ivy Tech campuses to 42 institutions already on the network. In addition, as many as 49,000 businesses and thousands of health, public safety, education and government centers in 80 communities along the route may be served, the release said.
What is extraordinary is that these announcements are ordinary. Similar news - about a variety of projects, including the high-profile Internet2 - comes and goes on a regular basis. In totality, such advances provide an increasing percentage of the populace with higher-speed networking than what nominally is available from their ISP, at least in some area of their lives. It also, in a more indirect manner, most likely pushes the telcos and cable companies to up their capacities a bit more aggressively.