What is the Internet 2

Internet 2

High-speed highway - until the next congestion

With the Abilene network, one of the most important connecting lines for the Internet2 used by research institutions and financed by the private sector has gone into operation in the USA. After the trial phase of the new network, serious changes could soon also be imminent in the public Internet.

Success stories inevitably find a continuation not only in Hollywood. Part two is also on the program for cyberspace, because after the boom in the Internet caused by the World Wide Web, government agencies and research institutions in the United States are planning a new edition in partnership with companies from the computer and telecommunications industry: The Internet2 is supposed to have over 140 connect the institutions involved with a network that makes the promises of real-time applications and barely exhaustible bandwidth resources a reality, as well as putting an end to the World Wide Wait - initially for the bodies connected to the initiative, later for the entire network community. "People will no longer stare at their screens and curse their computers," promises Beth Gaston of the National Science Foundation (NSF) press office.

At the beginning of the week, after around 10 months of "construction" in Washington, Abilene, a fiber-optic network covering around 13,000 miles in the USA, was put into operation as one of the main connecting lines for the Internet2. The information superhighway, of which US Vice President Al Gore has been dreaming for years, seems to have become a bit more tangible: data should travel via Abilene at an average speed of between 155 and 622 megabits per second (Mbps). New dial-in nodes, to which 70 research institutions will initially have direct access, will initially be designed for a data volume of 2.4 gigabits per second (Gbps). These access rates are around 85,000 times higher than the average dial-in speeds of a normal Otto surfer with an analog modem. There are even plans to expand to 9.6 Gbps. So far, the lion's share of the development costs of around 500 million dollars have been paid by Abilene's three main private sponsors, the telecommunications companies Qwest and Nortel Networks - almost the entire fiber optic network was made available by Qwest - as well as the router specialist Cisco, which donated the data distributors for the gigabit area.

The University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), which has been the management center for the Internet2 initiative since 1997 and has raised another 50 million dollars for Abilene from its members, does not want to reinvent the wheel. The aim of the UCAID is to bring the transmission speeds of the Internet2 into the gigabit range. The tried and tested open standards - above all TCP / IP - should be retained. The data will continue to be sent via Abilene in individual packages and reassembled at their destination. What is new, however, is the standard that ensures the smooth transmission of data packets over the broadband network: SONET (Synchronous Optical Network), which is tailored to fiber optic networks, is used. The aim is to create a refreshed version of the network environment that got the good old Internet1 running, which was basically developed in the 1960s.

The second important component of the Internet2 initiative is the very high-speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS), which NSF has been working on since 1995 in cooperation with the telephone company MCIWorldcom. At that time, the institution that had operated the Internet's most important backbone with NSFNet for more than a decade, placed its child in the hands of the private sector and was on the lookout for new tasks. The efforts to build a new Internet are still embedded in the Next Generation Internet Initiative (NGI). Behind this is the overall program with which the US government wants to link all public authorities, ministries and the associated institutions with a high-speed network. In addition to the NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which had already initiated the development of the first computer networks and thus the Internet itself, and NASA are also involved in the NGI.

From the superhighway to the next generation internet: the US government is making politics with the internet

In his speech after his re-election in February 1997, Bill Clinton identified the NGI as a prestige object of his second term in office, with which the USA intends to expand its leadership in the field of network technology and research. The president said that the development of the next generation Internet is necessary so that "our leading universities and institutes can communicate at speeds 1000 times faster than today in order to develop new medical procedures, new energy sources and new ways of working together. " Almost 200 million dollars are to flow into the project from the state coffers by 1999.

German politicians have little to counter this: In Germany, there are two test networks running in the lower gigabit range between Erlangen, Munich and Berlin and several research centers in the Bonn / Cologne area (http://www.dfn.de/projekte/gigabit/home.html). However, the majority of universities are left out of such high-speed experiments. It is therefore no wonder that the Internet2 consortium has concluded cooperation agreements with the operators of similar projects such as Nordunet in Scandinavia or the Asia-Pacific Advanced Network, but not with the German Research Network (DFN).

There is no need to worry about concrete usage ideas for the new network generations. In the coming years, at least the American Vice President knows, investments in high-speed networks could "help the best medical specialists provide advice to patients in rural clinics, support scientists, use remote supercomputers to predict tornadoes and Allow adults to acquire new skills through distance learning. "

Telemedicine, meteorology and distance learning courses are generally viewed as areas that depend on extended network capabilities, alongside complex simulation processes. At the inauguration of Abilene, a doctor from Washington, together with a colleague in Ohio, demonstrated how a pathologist can use video images transmitted over the fiber optic network to provide a virtual surgeon with expertise and expert advice during a gallbladder operation in an operating room many miles away.

As easy as making a phone call - only a little more expensive

The new network is intended to continue to test how generally the transmission quality on the Internet can be improved. The company partners involved in particular hope to gain knowledge from this for the development of new products that will help with the further commercialization of the Internet. Interactive operating instructions for the new microwave that can be accessed via the network are just as conceivable as virtual visits to the holiday island - in 3D, of course. Video and audio-on-demand solutions should finally come within reach: With a few clicks of the mouse, says Stephen Wolff, Head of Development for Future Internet Activities at Cisco, you can borrow a video over the network and watch it when you want like.

The bandwidth bottlenecks and the unreliability of data transport do not yet allow such services. With the experience of the Internet2 project, the public network should soon be equipped with a higher quality. "In principle, we want to provide the Internet with as high a level of reliability as people are used to from telephoning," said Brian McFadden, who is responsible for Internet solutions at Nortel, summarizing the sponsors' efforts.

These goals will not be easy to achieve with a network like the Internet, which is kept going by so many and such diverse operators. "The challenge," as Wolff says, "is to find a way so that network providers that work together and compete with one another can offer better services." A second question is still who should and will ultimately pay for the beautiful new services. If guaranteed bandwidths for special services should soon become established on the public Internet, there is a definite threat of the introduction of taximeters on the data highway: then people would no longer only be asked to pay for the connection times, but also for the type of services used.

The cycle of net utopia and economic reality continues

The hopes that are directed towards the new network are nevertheless very high overall: "I could imagine that the Internet2 would open up a new world of human interaction," says Douglas van Houwelling, head of UCAID. Telepresence, tele-cooperation, instant and ubiquitous multimedia communication and virtual reality are his options for the future. "Wherever you are on this planet, you will always be able to 'be' with someone else in the world."

The dreams and myths of the ubiquity of data communication, which have long been part of the poetry of cyberspace, are given new impetus by the name of the "next generation" of the network, which is reminiscent of science fiction รก la Star Trek. Abilene is also fully rooted in the "frontier thought" of the American nation: The name giver for the prestige object of the Internet2 was a small town in Kansas, which went down in US history as a border town during the conquest of the Wild West in 1860. There the expansion of the transcontinental railroad connection from east to west initially stalled, so that the place experienced a brief boom as a trading center in "no man's land".

The spirit of optimism that has just returned to the scientific community with Abilene could, however, subside just as quickly as it did during the everyday version 1.0 of the Internet. It is not for nothing that the partners from the business world are already on board during the experimental phase of the current product life cycle of network production - the slumber of a purely academic Internet2 will therefore not last long.

As a precautionary measure, van Houwelling presented the new network to the readers of the business magazine Forbes in August as a test bed for future business applications: "What we are doing here is an example of corporate processes in the 21st century." More and more companies would have to work together in virtual teams to achieve their goals. More and more users for the Internet2 also mean less and less bandwidth for the individual user. The scientists then have no choice but to set off for new shores and start the network cycle all over again: "If we are successful," says Gary Augustson, chairman of the Internet2 steering committee, realistically, the next generation Internet could soon too be constipated. "Then we will probably move on to the Internet3." (Stefan Krempl)

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