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UD's Internet2 link supports streaming data, nomadic computing and more

NEWARK, DE.--New strategies for "streaming" data would allow a student in Iowa to claim a seat in Gore Hall at the University of Delaware, or to hear a Seattle symphony in real time, over a computer. Cell phones, pagers and other portable devices, meanwhile, are being linked to the Internet without modems or wires, via network addresses.

Streaming data and nomadic computing are just two of the emerging technologies under development at UD, where selected researchers recently received a live connection to Internet2-offering a 10-fold increase in computing speeds.

One of 36 charter members of the Internet2 initiative, UD is now connected to Abilene, a high-performance computer network that makes it possible to transmit 155 million bits of information per second (bps).

Named for an Abilene, Kan., railroad junction that opened a new frontier to pioneers in 1860, the Abilene connection is one of many high-performance networks available to the Internet2 researchers, whose work complements the federal government's Next Generation Internet (NGI) project.

Abilene and the National Science Foundation's vBNS, or very high-performance Backbone Network Service, are the two largest high-performance networks. Together, Abilene and vBNS currently connect more than 150 U.S. universities and government agencies.

The Internet's H.O.V. lane

The Internet2 project is a collaborative effort to accommodate an astronomical increase in demand for Internet service, while also facilitating new functions such as real-time video and audio transmission. Internet2 researchers are using dedicated, high-performance networks, like Abilene and high-speed connections to it, as laboratories for network development.

The direct connection to Abilene guarantees selected UD research teams a vast increase in network capacity, or bandwidth. Although only a very small amount of the bandwidth is being used today, the new connection dedicates 155-million-bps-power to UD users at all times, according to Dan Grim, executive director of Information Technologies/Network and Systems Services, the University's engineering leader for Internet2.

The UD campus network has been configured to route any data transmissions destined for one of these Abilene or vBNS sites over the Abilene network, Grim explains. To take full advantage of the high-performance backbones, UD's Network and Systems Services unit will upgrade the campus network with dedicated switches, so that 10- to100-megabit-per-second (mbs) connections to Abilene will be available to individuals in participating departments and laboratories.

Currently, those in laboratories share a 10-mbs connection with others, which means they rarely have access to the full, 10-mbs capacity.

At least 16 teams of researchers at UD- in electrical and computer engineering; marine studies; chemistry and biochemistry; computer and information sciences; chemical engineering; civil and environmental engineering; physics and astronomy; and the Bartol Research Institute-are eager to start using Abilene in their projects.

Faculty member Kenneth Barner of electrical and computer engineering, for example, wants to transmit video images of messages in sign language.

Xiao-Han Yan, marine studies, needs to receive detailed and dynamic information about atmospheric circulation and the climate for numeric models that simulate ocean conditions. Murray V. Johnston III, chemistry and biochemistry, will invite researchers across the country to "use" his laboratory's extensive collection of mass spectrometers, by transmitting live video images of their experiments to the collaborating institutions.

As Internet2 partners, these and other UD researchers will be contributing to the development of sophisticated, new Internet applications, says Susan J. Foster, the University's vice president for information technologies.

Why build Internet2?

Increasing the capacity of the high-performance backbones is critical to researchers who must gather and send vast amounts of data. It's also essential to address the anticipated increase in Internet use by the general public, which will make the recent yearly doubling of traffic seem modest, Foster says.

Moreover, Internet2 researchers need greater computing power to test new methods and protocols for streaming, or transmitting data in real time, and to accommodate nomadic computing.

Currently, the Internet uses a transfer protocol, which breaks apart a body of data such as a message and then reassembles it upon delivery. The strategy efficiently maximizes the network's capacity. But, it wouldn't support the transmission of a lecture or a symphony concert, which the user would want to hear just as it would be performed, in real time.

Internet2 researchers want to multicast these performances. Unlike a broadcast, which would transmit the concert to every point on the network, a multicast would make efficient use of bandwidth by transmitting only to designated points on the network. Unlike e-mail sent to a large list, with copies to each list member, a multicast would efficiently send a single copy over the network to multiple recipients.

Nomadic computers are the anticipated next-generation of cell phones, pagers and wireless devices that will connect with the Internet via network addresses. Someday soon, researchers expect that everyone's TV set will be an Internet host, connected to the Internet. Internet Protocol (IP) governs the assignment of network addresses. Internet2 is testing a new version, Ipv6, which is designed to accommodate these new requirements.

Researchers in electrical and computer engineering at the University, who played a significant role in the design and development of network technology for the Internet, are now contributing to Internet2 network design, with projects in data streaming and multicasting.

Contacts: Ginger Pinholster, (302) 831-6408,; or
Laura Overturf, (302) 831-1418,

Nov. 17, 1999