Real bandwidth: Internet2 goes live

The $500m (£315m) high-speed Internet2 network linking 37 American universities, which went live Wednesday, will help researchers collaborate on projects such as real-time surgeries.

Part of a planned demonstration earlier this week in Washington will include a segment where an offsite surgeon aides colleagues in a live operation, according to the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, sponsor of the Indiana University-based project.

Internet2, also known as the Abilene Project, is a boon for the universities, which will benefit from the network's 2.4 gigabit-per-second speed, said Michael McRobbie, vice president for information technology at Indiana University, in a statement. When the five-year project is completed in 2003, 140 universities will be connected to the network, which runs some 45,000 times faster than 56K modems, he said. "Faculty and researchers now have access to unsurpassed networking capabilities for teaching and research," McRobbie said.

The project is also expected to spur next-generation achievements in networking that could ultimately make the consumer Internet experience much richer, said Douglas Van Houweling, president and CEO of UCAID, in a statement. "Just as the research networks of a decade ago produced technologies that have transformed the way we all work, learn and live today, Abilene will help develop the technology we all will use tomorrow," Van Houweling said. The 10,000-mile backbone runs on equipment donated by Qwest Communications, Cisco Systems, and Nortel Networks. The Abilene Project Network Operations Centre is housed at Indiana University.

In a related development Wednesday, IBM announced it is the first corporation approved to link up to the Internet2 network. The company's IBM Research unit will collaborate with university researchers on e-commerce applications, IBM officials said.

Among the projects to be tackled by IBM Research and Internet2-affiliated academics are "new middleware to manage traffic over high-speed networks and bandwidth-hungry applications that will integrate video, voice, data and transactions," IBM officials said.

"Working with the Internet2 community, IBM will build powerful new applications that are feasible only on a backbone with such enormous capacity as Abilene," said John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology at IBM, in a statement.


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