The prospect of dialing up a dedicated 10Gbps optical link between your office and another firm across the country became a reality today—at least, if your office is a member of Internet2. The research network announced at its fall meeting that it had completed a major upgrade to its national infrastructure, which now operates at 100Gbps and allows researchers to provision their own dedicated links for limited periods of time.
The main network remains IP-based and connects more than 200 universities, in addition to limited connections to government and industry facilities. Each network segment now features a set of 10 10Gbps links, each running on a separate wavelength of light, for a total of 100Gbps of bandwidth. And that's only the start; Internet2 says it can scale each segment to handle up to 100 wavelengths in the future. That's… a lot of star charts.
Most intriguing is the network's new Dynamic Circuit Network feature, which will allow researchers to set up dedicated, 10Gbps point-to-point connections across the network for short-term data transfer. The service will go live in January 2008, but it already works. In a demonstration today, Dr. Carl Lundstedt, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, set up a connection between his school and the Fermilab research park in Batavia, Illinois. With bandwidth provisioned, Lundstedt then transferred one-third of a terabyte of data between the two places. It took five minutes.
Fermi has 100Gbps of bandwidth. How about you?
Rick Summerhill, CTO for Internet2, believes that this sort of instant provisioning is important on a network like his, and he expects to see it widely used. "Just like you switch on a light or turn on a water tap, we envision a future where researchers, scientists, faculty, artists, etc. will be able to 'turn on' a high capacity network connection when and where they need it," he said today.
Researchers who need something more permanent can use Internet2's WaveCo service to simply provision another wavelength between two institutions. That dedicated connection is available for as long as it's needed (at a cost), and can be ordered up at speeds from 50Mbps to 10Gbps.
All this talk about research and large hadron colliders and scientific datasets is all well and good, but it ignores the obvious question: how fast can you grab BitTorrent downloads over this thing? In general, Students + Fast Internet == Trouble, and Internet2 has not been immune. Back in 2005, the RIAA and MPAA both expressed alarm over the possibility of P2P usage on the network and filed a couple hundred lawsuits just to show everyone that this was Serious Business. Since then, the outrage appears to have died down.
Internet2 merged with National LamdaRail, which offered similar services to academics, earlier this year.
Update: An Internet2 manager wrote to let us know that the press materials are technically correct in that up to 100 wavelengths could be supported on each link, but only if more fiber is laid or new technology comes along. Right now each fiber can handle a max of 80 different, simultaneous wavelengths, but current Internet2 gear limits this to 40 wavelengths per fiber. Still, with each wavelength creating a 10Gbps connection, it's hard to believe too many people are complaining about the speed.