Friday, July 29, 2011

#ALGORITHMS: "Gig.U to Extend LAN Speed Among Schools"

Universities nationwide are banding together to extend the gigabit per second speeds typical of modern local-area networks to long-distance connections among signatory educational institutions.

Many modern PCs offer gigabit per second local-area network speeds to those willing to upgrade their switches and cables from the 10/100 megabits per second, which most people get by with on their LANs. Gig.U, on the other hand, plans to promote gigabit per second speeds over long-distance connections between signatory universities.

Gigabit per second speeds perform between 10 and 100 times faster than the typical 100- and 10-megabit per second local area network, respectively. But the difference is only a matter of seconds for the small files typically transferred by most home users. For real-time gaming, however, almost no time-lag will be perceived when gamers run on a LAN. However, extending even 100M bps LAN speeds to a broadband connection among remote gamers can cost $100 to $200 per month from Internet Service Providers.

Universities, on the other hand, routinely transfer large files for scientific research, making gigabit per second connections a real time-saver. And like the network gamer, simulations and visualizations of scientific data can be performed remotely if a user's terminal has access to gigabit per second connections.

Universities nationwide have signed onto Gig.U by soliciting ideas for how to extend gigabit per second local-area network speeds over long-distance connections.
Many technical universities have already extended such high-speed LAN connections among themselves, such as MIT's 10G bps Regional Optical Network that operates on the eastern seaboard. Stanford University has a Google-sponsored pilot program that extends gigabit per second LAN speeds to nearby residents there, and Case Western--a Gig.U signatory--has a similar pilot program in Cleveland.

The other 28 universities backing Gig.U, however, want to level the playing field by providing such high-speed connections among even remotely located universities, from Alaska to Hawaii. The 29 universities include: Arizona State, Case Western, Colorado State, Duke, George Mason, Howard, Indiana, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia and the Universities of Alaska, Chicago, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Florida, Virginia and Washington.

The Gig.U effort will likely take several years to develop, since the current stage of the program merely has universities circulating a request-for-information (RFI) from interested parties about how to provide gigabit-per-second to remote universities in an economical manner. The idea is to solicit partnerships with industry and other remote users who also need high-speed connections, such as health-care institutions, in order to come up with creative methods of financing long-distance high-speed networks. If workable solutions are forthcoming, the next step will be request-for-proposals (RFPs) about how to actually implement the solutions proposed by the RFIs.

Initiated by The Aspen Institute's Communications and Society Program, the effort will be directed by Blair Levin, former Executive Director of the National Broadband Plan and a Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

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