High-bandwidth backbone handles Texas-size Internet traffic

Internet traffic heads for Abilene this week.

The newly launched high-bandwidth Abilene backbone for Internet 2, together with the
National Science Foundation’s very-high-performance Backbone Network Service, will
foster growth of the government’s Next Generation Internet.

“Since Internet 2 is all about next-generation applications, you have to have a
heterogeneous network to test them on,” said Greg Wood, communications director for
Internet 2.

Abilene is a project of the University Corp. for Advanced Internet Development in
partnership with Qwest Communications Inc. of Denver, Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose,
Calif., Northern Telecom Inc.’s Nortel Networks and Indiana University.

Eventually Abilene will have 8,000 miles of backbone fiber cable plus 5,000 miles of
access circuits.

The network is about 80 percent complete, mostly in the backbone. “It’s
always the last-mile issues that make networking difficult,” Wood said.

Qwest provides the fiber for Abilene, Nortel the Synchronous Optical Network equipment
and Cisco the IP-over-Sonet routers. Indiana University will manage the network. The
initial 2.4-Gbps capacity will grow as more infrastructure and management technologies,
such as new IP-layer quality-of- service software, are tested.

Abilene begins its production life by linking about a dozen universities. By
year’s end, all 70 schools that have expressed interest will likely be connected, but
Wood said it is unlikely the entire UCAID membership will hook up to Abilene.

Some schools are having their needs met by the vBNS or other high-speed networks, he

Also launched this month was an Internet 2 initiative called the Distributed Storage
Infrastructure. Five IBM Web Cache Manager units with a combined capacity of nearly 6
terabytes went online at the Geological Survey, the University of Hawaii, Indiana
University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of
Tennessee at Knoxville.

The distributed infrastructure will demonstrate ways to deliver high-bandwidth content,
such as full-motion video over public networks, by putting cache storage as close to the
user as possible.

Abilene users will pay for the $500 million development costs. The annual registration
fee is $20,000 this year.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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