Internet2 -- the project charged with building the kind of high-bandwidth, multimedia networks currently confined to science fiction -- announced two new initiatives for accelerating the availability of high-performance access and interactive digital video Monday.
As part of the announcement of the Middleware and Internet2 Digital Video Network initiatives, IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and other companies said they would donate millions of dollars in grants and equipment to the universities developing the new information superhighway.
"Internet2 is to today's Internet as a sophisticated freeway is to a country road," said Douglas Van Houweling, president and CEO of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), home of the Internet2 project.
"With the Internet, we had the technology for country roads ... and enormous cities grew up around these roads. What we're doing is improving the roads ... we don't need to replace the Internet, we need to augment it."
Internet2 is one year into a five-year project to build a next-generation Internet, using existing Internet protocols as well as new ones created especially for advanced applications. Internet2 technology could also lead to new consumer uses for video.
The so-called Middleware initiative is designed to advance two of the capabilities at the heart of Internet2: fast access to information and the ability to exchange high-quality multimedia content. These applications will ultimately be available to any Internet user.
The Middleware initiative also includes other projects for defining how the next-generation Internet will work, including security network quality of service, multicasting and directories.
Digital Video Network initiative
The Internet2 Digital Video Network initiative will create the underlying framework necessary for video applications, such as distance learning and remote medical operations.
"Just as desktop publishing opened up a huge market for people who had never done design before, the same thing will be the case with digital video," said Joel Mambretti, director of the International Center for Advanced Internet Research (iCAIR). "People will create specialized video content for every subject, and it will be broadcast worldwide." He added that, just as personal home pages make up most of the Internet today, the digital video network will probably host a lot of personal home movies.
IBM will contribute supercomputer and video technology to iCAIR.
The Internet2 Distributed Storage Infrastructure initiative will develop and refine technology designed to handle the enormous multimedia files that Internet2 will carry.
The storage initiative focuses on creating multiple copies of large files, in geographically dispersed locations, so that the content can be quickly accessed from any location.
"The initiative uses one of the basic concepts of network management: if you're going to need high performance access to information, it's best to have it close at hand," said Micah Beck, research associate professor with the University of Tennessee.
IBM grants total $2.1 million
IBM is providing high-speed storage devices to the Distributed Storage Infrastructure project, and is making a grant available to the University of Tennessee for storage development. Storage Technology Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Novell Inc. also announced support for the storage initiative.
IBM announced two other grants today, to Florida International University in Miami, Fla., for establishing a high-speed campus network; and to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for adapting advanced networks for multimedia delivery.
Together, IBM's three grants total $2.1 million. It has already donated $3.5 million to Internet2 projects.