Rochester is now a member of Internet2, a consortium of some 110 universities and agencies working to create a network that will be between 100 and 1,000 times faster than the current Internet. The new system would allow researchers to have their computers talk to each other with unprecedented speed; digital libraries would be able to offer on-line video and audio materials; medical researchers and clinicians would be able to diagnose and monitor patients from a distance; and professors would be able to appear on-screen and talk on-line with a sizable class of students.
"We can see what the Internet has done so far, and Internet2 is likely to have that kind of effect, but many times over," says Edward Titlebaum, vice provost for computing. "We want to be a part of that new system."
Titlebaum notes that Rochester was originally involved in ARPANET, the government computer network that laid the groundwork for today's Internet system.
Internet2 will not be an "add-on" to the present Internet, but will be based on entirely new fiber optics connections and a new system of channeling information around the net. Universities will use a new very high-speed backbone network service (vBNS) line to connect to a regional "gigapop" (gigabit capacity point of presence), which in turn will connect with 14 other gigapops around the country. Information will be able to flow at more than 600 million bits per second--compared with the current 10,000 or so bits per second--and will eventually operate at speeds as high as 2.4 billion bits per second. The new connections would provide higher speeds, greater capacity (i.e., bandwidth), and better quality of service that, for example, would allow video images to appear smoothly and virtually instantaneously on one's computer screen and avoid the long "pauses" that sometimes occur when a computer user connects to a new web site. Computer programs involving multiple computers at various locations would be able to work significantly faster.
The University expects to be connected to the New York State gigapop by the end of the year. (The state's gigapop also will include SUNY Buffalo, Syracuse University, SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, New York University, Columbia University, Polytechnic University, New York Public Library, Rockefeller University, SUNY Stony Brook, Brookhaven National Laboratories, and other institutions.)
Rochester is now a part of an application among seven institutions in the state for National Science Foundation funding to support connection to the vBNS linesnow being laid along the Thruway that will connect New York State gigapop members as well as serving commercial customers.
"In our application for NSF funding, we had to show some of the ways in which Internet2 will be useful to our research efforts, and we had plenty to show them," Titlebaum says. Among examples are projects from the various campuses in physics, biomedical ultrasound, and telemedicine.
For example, physics and astronomy faculty and students visit telescopes around the country to make observations and record data--lots of it. (One clear night easily generates 100 megabytes of data.) A faster Internet would allow these astronomers to transfer their findings to other colleagues or back to their home institutions, instead of packing them up on CDs or some other storage format.
At the Medical Center, faster and better Internet connections would allow a physician at a remote location to observe and consult during complicated surgical procedures.
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