The Evolution of Internet2 Speeds Up

Carl Weinschenk

Internet2-a superfast network used by researchers and academic institutions that need to traffic huge loads of data-is futuristic and a bit exotic. But look no further than an application marketplace (or, for that matter, a neighborhood electronics store) to understand that what seems futuristic and exotic today is almost certain to become the norm, and usually in very short order.


That, and the understanding that today's broadband networks are the direct grandchildren of high-speed military and academic networks, makes it clear how important it is to follow what is happening at the cutting edges.


The news is that Internet2 is getting faster. More specifically, Enterprise Networking Planet reports that the network is deploying dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) transponders and router interfaces that operate at 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps). The story says that the Internet2 serves more than 50,000 institutions. Some-such as the Large Hadron Collider-are driving demand with their voracious data appetites.


The Enterprise Networking Planet story-and the related release from Internet2 itself-said that Juniper Networks' T1600 core routers will be featured. The two sources differ in a key way. The story suggests that the news is an upgrade to the existing Internet2 infrastructure, while a literal reading of the release suggests a totally new network. The reality probably is that a portion of the existing network is being upgraded. In any case, the consortium says that the goal is to provide more than 200,000 "essential community anchor institutions" with services. These will include schools, libraries, community health centers and public safety organizations," the release says.


This press release offers another piece to the puzzle. It says that The National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted $2.65 million to the Internet2 Middleware Initiative. The grant, which was awarded under NSF's Software Development for Cyberinfrastructure (SDCI) program, aims to improve collaboration between several NSF-funded virtual organizations. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory and iPlant are mentioned in the release.


Internet2 is not the only network catering to institutions needing high-octane connectivity. This University of Vermont press release describes a $17 million grant from the NSF and the National Institutes of Health for the North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (NECC), a consortium of institutions stretching across Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware. NECC will reach 60 Gbps. The report says that a link to Albany was to have opened on Oct. 31. The NECC will be a portal on Internet2, the release says.


What sounds grandiose or overly complex today, sounds quite reasonable tomorrow. And, these days, tomorrow is coming faster than ever. Thus, the evolution of Internet2 and related superfast networks is worth following.

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