Magazine article American Libraries

Internet 2: A Clean, Well-Lighted Network

Magazine article American Libraries

Internet 2: A Clean, Well-Lighted Network

Article excerpt

The bad news is the same as the good news: Every day more and more people are connecting to the Internet. According to January 1997 estimates, there are 57 million Internet users worldwide, with more than 700 million users projected by 2000. We advocates for universal access find this exciting. But by mid-afternoon, when traffic on our networks peaks, search engines are busy, and our computers slow to a crawl, we all begin wishing for serious bandwidth relief.

Most libraries won't experience relief very quickly; we'll have to use the time-honored strategies of searching early and late (which is becoming earlier and later) and otherwise exercising plenty of patience. However, several new initiatives promise to deliver relief from bogged-down networks and allow growth for new services.

One such initiative, Internet 2 (or I2), is on a fast track, with an implementation date of January 1999. In the long run, planners say, lessons learned from I2 and similar projects (such as vBNS, or Very high speed Backbone Network Service) will help make the Internet robust enough to comfortably sustain current and additional traffic.

The emphasis of I2 is not bandwidth relief, but support for new services; however, the two will go hand in hand. Heather Boyles, Internet 2 Project staff member, wrote me, "the Internet 2 Project is applications driven and the advanced applications being developed demand a more efficient and effective network." Tom Wilson, head of systems at University of Houston Libraries and one of a growing number of librarians carefully observing 12 developments, commented that "there seems to be a very strong emphasis on two things...high speed heavy-duty computation and distance learning (i.e., interactive video)" - both of which would have long-range positive impact on information services and librarianship.

Aerobic Internet

The design of 12 vaguely resembles the same old Internet that's been around for 25 years, but pumped up on steroids. In place of POPs - points of presence, where modems and leased lines connect to the Internet - there are gigapops, or POPs that support gigabit-capacity network traffic. Our old Internet was designed around minimal hardware and software requirements, but I2 will require high-powered computers and supporting equipment - much more powerful than current standards. Other major differences include use of a more robust (and more demanding) version of TCP-IP (the protocol used by the Internet for interconnectivity).

I2 will not be a place where Joe or Jane Student can dial in with a 2400 bps modem, a 286 computer, and an old copy of ProComm - even if they had $500,000 a year for the next three years and could classify their dorm room as a research institution for membership purposes (though, if approved, they could become affiliate members for a bargain $10,000).

Access, at least during the development phase, will be limited to members of the I2 consortium, network traffic will be reserved for 12 members and research activities, and minimum hardware requirements will likely begin well above the 10BaseT level and certainly not include support for the lowest common denominators now supported by the current Internet (never mind that 2400 bps modem; typical LANs and your average Pentium aren't designed to support 12 traffic). …

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