Two states climb aboard new, 100-gigabit fast train

Indiana and Ohio are the first states to take advantage of the next-generation backbone being built out by Internet2 and the Energy Department, linking in-state academic research networks to the 100-gigabits/sec cross-country network.

The Internet2 academic research consortium and DOE’s Energy Sciences Network in 2011 completed the first transcontinental links of the high-speed network using coherence modulation technology. The prototype network is being built with a $62 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is part of DOE’s Advanced Networking Initiative to develop a next-generation science and research infrastructure.

The backbone now stretches nearly 4,000 miles, linking New York, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City and Sunnyvale, Calif.


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Indiana in January became the first state to link its research and education network to the backbone with a 100-gigabits/sec link from Indianapolis to Chicago.

Gov. John Kasich announced earlier in February in his state of the state address that Ohio would upgrade its Ohio Academic Research Network (OARnet) in a $10.4 million program to link the state’s cities to the backbone.

In addition to supporting DOE’s ESnet, Internet2 serves as a testbed for new technology to take full advantage of the 100-gigibits/sec capacity.

Although 100 gigabit standards already exist, there is more to high-speed networking than pushing bits at a high rate. Science and research networks tend to be used differently than commercial networks, handling a few very large data streams rather than many smaller streams. Protocols and applications have to be optimized for the higher speeds, and DOE is funding development of a 100-gigabits/sec Network Interface Controller to get data on and off the network. 

The Internet2 network is built with Ciena’s 6500 Packet-Optical Platform that provides coherent optical processing. Coherent modulation of the optical signal allows a signal to travel farther between regeneration.

Indiana’s new high-speed link, Monon100, is 10 times faster than the previous link between the Indiana GigaPoP and Internet2. The Indiana GigaPoP is a partnership between Indiana University and Purdue University and is the network hub for the state’s colleges and universities. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is the first school linked to Monon100, but it also will be available to IU at Bloomington, PU at West Lafayette and Notre Dame.

The network link is named for the old Monon Railroad that connected the state’s colleges with Chicago until the mid-20th century.

The Ohio plan will be carried out in two phases leveraging the OARnet’s fiber optic network. In the first phase, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo will be linked to the backbone by June. Akron, Athens and Youngstown will be connected by October in the second phase. The cost of the hardware deployment will be $8.1 million. Another $2.3 million will be invested in an innovation center at Ohio State University that will be operated in collaboration with Internet2 and other state and federal research centers to test 100-gigabits/sec technologies.

OARnet is one of several Ohio networking initiatives intended to help the rustbelt state remake itself for a 21st-century economy.

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