The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 13, NO. 1     DEC 1999

WPI to make the Internet2 Connection

Giga what?

A gigaPoP is a network interconnection --or Point of Presence--with a gigabit capacity that allows regional areas to aggregate their connections to the extremely high-speed backbone that links points on Internet2. The term gigabit refers to data transfer rates measured in units of 1,000 megabits, or one billion bits per second. To appreciate just how fast this is, consider this: to download the movie Titanic with your 28K modem, plan on allowing more than 42 hours. If you have access to a T-1 connection (1.5 megabits per second) you can retrieve the film in under an hour; a cable modem (4 megabits per second) will pull it through in less than 20 minutes. With Internet2, it will take less than a minute.

WPI's connection to Internet2 (The Wire, January 1999) is expected to be activated by the end of the year when the University begins operating the Goddard Internet2 GigaPoP (see Giga what?, at right). "This places us among the top universities in the U.S. with this capability," says Thomas J. Lynch, vice president for information technology. "At this time, there are only about 30 U.S. universities and regional networks with gigaPoPs."

Internet2 has been described as a high-tech test bed for the technologies that will shape the commercial Internet of the 21st century. The intent of this experimental network is to give university researchers the option of using a faster, less-crowded alternative to the Internet of today, one with guaranteed bandwidth and quality of service. Guaranteed quality of service is important in such applications as the remote operation of scientific equipment, the transmission of digital video and interactive simulations, Lynch says.

Lynch credits many people at WPI (including Allan Johannesen, managing senior UNIX systems administrator, and Sean O'Connor, network manager) with paving the way for WPI's Internet2 connection. He notes that WPI's efforts have helped stimulate the development of advanced networking in the Worcester area, in part through his membership on the Worcester InfoTech Task Force (www.worcester-now.com).

To build the Goddard GigaPoP in downtown Worcester, WPI formed a partnership with NEESCom, a subsidiary of New England Electric Systems, which has teamed with telephone companies and Internet service providers to create a high-speed voice and data network that will serve much of southern New England. Local "rings" within the network reach downtown Worcester and the city's biomedical and medical communities. A third local ring serves WPI and some local businesses.

Part of the funding for the gigaPoP came from a competitive grant award to WPI from the National Science Foundation. Over the next two years, the NSF will provide funds up to $136,250 toward the estimated $500,000 cost of WPI's portion of the gigaPoP connection. Nortel Networks has supported WPI's networking initiatives with donations of equipment and engineering services.

"As an Internet2 university, we will use the high bandwidth and quality of service to share new forms of data, information and knowledge with researchers at other universities, museums, libraries and schools," Lynch says. "Our gigaPoP architecture, coupled with NEESCom's fiber optic routes, will make it convenient and economically attractive for other universities to participate in this regional network and the Internet2 project."

As part of its NSF proposal, WPI identified 18 areas of meritorious research at WPI, including work on new forms of spacecraft propulsion, stroke, cryptography and surface metrology, experiments in massively parallel computing, enhanced Web performance and data mining, and computer modeling of vehicle crashworthiness. Researchers in these areas will be among the first to obtain 100 megabit per second or greater capacity connections, though access to Internet2 will be also extended to other members of the campus community, including graduate and undergraduate students.

What is Internet2?

A project of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), Internet2 is a collaborative effort by more than 150 U.S. universities to develop advanced Internet technology and applications vital to research and education missions of higher education. For more, visit www.internet2.edu.


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