Chicago-Pittsburgh Link Marks First Step of New National Computer Infrastructure

Article excerpt

Network expected to advance science, engineering and medical research

PITTSBURGH

A consortium of top U.S. research universities and private sector technology companies announced last month the establishment of a high-speed computer connection between research centers in Chicago and Pittsburgh, marking the first notable sign of progress for the National LambdaRail (NLR) project. Launched in September, the NLR initiative, which is coordinated by the National LambdaRail Inc. consortium, is deploying a new and innovative national networking infrastructure to advance networking research and the next generation of network-based applications in science, engineering and medicine.

Similar to the high-speed networking and networks that support the Internet2 applications under development by leading research universities, the NLR seeks to stimulate innovative research and development into next generation network technologies, protocols, services and applications. The NLR consortium of universities and corporations, formed earlier this year, is building a network that will eventually include 11,000 miles of high-speed connections linking the consortium members and major population areas. National "LambdaRail" combines the Greek symbol for light waves with "rail," which recalls the 19th-century form of network that united the United States.

"National LambdaRail is an important development by the community. It will contribute to the cyberinfrastructure that is critical to progress in every field of science and engineering," says Dr. Peter Freeman, the assistant director for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation.

The development of NLR "can lead to significantly expanded access for many researchers and educators to computational, analytical and visualization tools, as well as large data repositories," according to Freeman.

"This will help create new scientific opportunities across the frontier," he says.

Officials say the NLR is probably the most ambitious research and education networking initiative since the ARPANET and the NSFnet, both of which led to the commercialization of the Internet. The NLR, like Internet2, strives to again stimulate and support innovative network research to go beyond the current evolution of the Internet. In support of NLR, the anticipated investment over the next five years from at least 16 of its key members should range from $80 million to $100 million, according to the NLR.

The new infrastructure will provide a wide range of facilities, capabilities and services in support of both application level and networking level experiments. NLR serves a diverse set of communities including computational scientists, distributed systems researchers and networking researchers.

"Integral to NLR is each member's commitment to further improve end-to-end network performance by providing dedicated optical capabilities from campus research labs to integrate seamlessly with NLR," says Dr. …