College will soon be on Internet 2

by John S. Leyba, | 11/26/97 6:00am

If all goes according to plan, the College could be accessing the Internet at three times the current speed by next year. But while this may seem cause for celebration, the news comes with one major caveat -- "for research only."

What the new Internet 2 ultimately means for the majority of Dartmouth users -- those not doing computation-intensive or collaborative research in science, medicine, or engineering -- is that traffic will be alleviated as researchers are pulled off the current Internet connection.

The College is one of several schools that received a $350,000, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation. This money will be used to rent a "vBNS," otherwise known as very-high-speed Network Backbone Service.

Director of Computing Larry Levine said "$350,000 pays the rent on the fiber -- It's already there."

Greg Wood, Internet 2's Communications Director, said the principle behind Internet 2 is simple: to unify the schools connected to it and provide applications for advanced computation and network use, much as the original Internet began in academia.

The College and other universities will provide the manpower and infrastructure, and the non-profit University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development will keep them all connected and lobby on their behalves.

The extra bandwidth and network capacity provided by the vBNS, up to 155 megabits per second, will be used in conjunction with projects developed by the Internet 2 consortium, of which the College is a charter member.

"This [grant] was a strong affirmation of the research that goes on here," said Levine.

The College paid $15,000 to share in the development and research projects of the various members of Internet 2, which now includes more than 100 schools.

"Researchers need to collaborate and to do that means sharing huge data sets and solving all sorts of problems," Wood said. "This can't be done with today's technologies ... there are all these things out there that could be done if people had the infrastructure to back them up."

The vBNS is intended to replace Dartmouth's existing Internet connection. The research performed on the vBNS will eventually share the giant "pipeline" with other commodity traffic, like BlitzMail or general World Wide Web-browsing.

By early 1998, Dartmouth will have a physical connection to the MCI fiber link, and by some time in the spring the vBNS connection will be operational, and Dartmouth "will be directly on the Net," instead of "hidden behind an ISP [Internet Service Provider]" as we currently are, according to Director of Technical Services for Computing Services Punch Taylor.

The College will "buy back" some of the pipeline from MCI and the National Science Foundation by paying for it outright instead of using the grant funds.

The Internet 2 does not have its own true network, according to Taylor -- it is simply a consortium apart from the National Science Foundation, and will operate either without or separate from the vBNS.