Internet

Internet2 backbone's debut

Abilene, the high-performance $500 million network, gets its first public demonstration.

A gathering of researchers and corporate representatives are in San Francisco today to witness the first public demonstration of Abilene, a high-performance $500 million network developed by Qwest Communications, Nortel Networks, Cisco Systems, and the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development.

The network was unveiled by Vice President Al Gore in April. With the help of more than $500 million in private investments and $50 million from universities, Abilene is being developed by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development under a five-year commitment to use fiber optic network materials and other technologies from the three tech firms.

The backbone will serve universities participating in Internet2 and will interconnect with existing advanced research and education networks, such as the high performance Backbone Network Service, and will work with federal agencies.

Indiana University will harbor the guts of Internet2's Abilene network through the Abilene Network Operation Center, which connects more than 130 universities at breakneck speeds.

Indiana University beat out about ten other university and private-sector proposals to house Abilene's network operations center, Internet2 officials said today.

Internet2 will not be available immediately to the public, but technology and applications developed on the university system are expected eventually to help speed up the global Internet.

That would allow a host of new uses for the Internet, which has become bogged down amid tremendous growth and limited transmission capacity. With faster and more reliable access, the network could be used to transmit live sound and pictures allowing, for example, doctors to consult on operations performed thousands of miles away.

The Internet2 project, started in 1996, includes more than 100 universities and a host of private company sponsors such as 3Com and MCI Communications.

The project is closely related to the Clinton administration's Next Generation Internet initiative led by government research agencies. In his 1997 State of the Union address, President Clinton pledged to build a new Internet that would be 100 to 1,000 times faster than the current network. Neither of the efforts will be available immediately to the public, but the new technologies and increased data speeds are expected to trickle down to the global Internet as well as private computer networks.