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Internet2 turns 15. Has it delivered on its promise?

Julie Sartain, Network World | June 13, 2011
With nearly $100 million in new funding, Internet2, the faster, better Internet reserved for research and education, has embarked on an upgrade that will boost backbone capacity to a staggering 8.8Tbps and expand services to hundreds of thousands of libraries, schools and medical centers.

Specifically, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded Internet2 and partners Indiana University, the Northern Tier Network Consortium, Ciena, Cisco, Infinera, and Juniper Networks funding through its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

Internet2 and its partners are investing another $33 million to complete the project, says Rob Vietzke, executive director of network services at Internet2.

The upgraded network will support up to 8.8 terabits per second of wavelength capacity at its completion and potentially four to 10 times that during its lifespan. The optical system will be provisioned on Internet2-owned dark fiber on a 16,000-mile national footprint and features 50 points-of-presence with optical interconnection at most intersections. Currently, the network transports 10, 40 and 100 Gigabit optical wavelengths, Vietzke explains.

"It's an incredibly robust optical platform. It can, for example, carry up to 880 10-Gigabit paths between Albuquerque and Denver, while simultaneously carrying another 880 10-Gigabit paths from Albuquerque to El Paso," says Chris Robb, director of operations and engineering at Internet2. "One of the most exciting aspects of the optical system is its capability to support newer technologies as they are made available. We're hopeful that we'll see individual wavelengths at 1 terabit per second in the next five years."

In addition, the upgraded network, based on Ciena's ActiveFlex 6500 platform, will have 10 core nodes with 100 Gigabit Ethernet interconnects between those nodes. Backbone nodes will be interconnected with 100G Ethernet framed circuits instead of bundles of 10G. Edge connections will eventually move to 40G and 100G out to the regional and state networks, which connect member institutions to the Internet2 backbone, adds Robb.

"Network construction has already begun and we anticipate the first coast-to-coast links to be installed and operational by this summer," says Vietzke. "We have already begun upgrading core routers and preparing for the new 100Gbps optical transport system. The entire network is scheduled to be completed by June 2013; however, we already expect to accelerate that deployment in response to partner and user demand."

The upgrade will allow Internet2 to expand its footprint to an estimated 200,000 schools, hospitals, libraries, community colleges and other anchor institutions.

Sartain is the author of "Data Networks 101" and a freelance journalist from Salt Lake City, Utah. She can be reached at


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