High-Speed Future Demonstrated By Nation's Largest Research and Education Computer Network

WASHINGTON, March 15, 1990 -- PRNewswire -- Transmitting data almost 30 times faster than ever before, the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) partnership today provided a glimpse into the future of high- speed computer networking.

The partners in NSFNET, the nation's largest research and education computer network, demonstrated prototype equipment that transmitted information between Washington and Ann Arbor, Mich. over a data network running at T3 speed, or about 45 megabits per second (Mbps), the equivalent of more than 5 million characters per second.

Information currently flows on the NSFNET at about 1.5 Mbps, or almost 200,000 characters per second, known as T1 speed. It is expected that the NSFNET will begin operations services at the higher speed of 45 Mbps later this year.

NSFNET is a partnership of the National Science Foundation, the Merit Computer Network, IBM Corporation, MCI Communications Corporation and the State of Michigan. Merit, IBM and MCI took over the day-to-day operation and management of the NSFNET backbone in 1987 and implemented a 24-fold increase in the bandwidth capacity over the old 56 kilobits per second (kbps) network. When the new T3 services go into effect, the network will have another 28-fold increase, representing an overall 672- fold increase in capacity over the last two and a half years while the partnership has managed the project.

Merit, IBM and MCI provided direct services and research expertise for this high-speed demonstration. IBM used several of its recently announced RISC System/6000 workstations equipped with prototype high- speed networking adapters and specially developed packet switching software to connect conference participants at National Net '90 in Washington, with the NSFNET Network Operations center at the Merit Computer Network in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Merit provides operational support. The IBM prototype network adapters interface directly with the MCI clear channel DS3 circuits connecting the two sites. The network adapters also connect two RISC System/6000 workstations together locally on a Fiber Distributed Data Interchange (FDDI) local area network operating at 100 Megabits per second.

MCI provided the high-speed fiber optic long-distance telephone circuits, with local support in Washington from Industrial Communications Corporation. MCI has had previous experience providing DS3 capability directly to supercomputer facilities, and was able to apply this expertise to engineer the circuits for this first packet- switched data transmission demonstration of its type at this high speed.

High-speed computer networking is increasingly required by researchers across the United States as new computing applications demand faster transmission technology. Applications such as distributed computing and interactive remote graphics are impractical on today's T1 networks. The demonstration illustrated the technical feasibility of operating a research network like the NSFNET at T3 speed, and showed how such a high-speed network would make it possible to effectively use new computing and information resources.

In the demonstration, for example, two workstations connected over the high-speed T3 link simulated the resources of two scientific collaborators at different locations sharing information. One application demonstrated the sharing of large image files. Another illustrated remote access and interactive analysis of an experimental data base representing high-energy particle collision measurements acquired at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, on the French-Swiss border near Geneva. Another application showed an interactive graphic visualization of molecular models synthesized on an IBM 3090 supercomputer located at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

"The prototype packet switching systems and software we have demonstrated here illustrate the new applications made possible by high- speed networks," said Michael M. Conners, director of computing systems at IBM Research. "New applications will enable scientists to steer large computations on remote supercomputers and visualize the progress of these simulations across the network in real time. A national T3 data network would improve the access to large and expensive shared scientific resources like telescopes, nuclear particle accelerators, wind-tunnels and supercomputers."

"With a T3 network, we can improve our scientific productivity in ways that are currently impossible," said Stephen S. Wolff, a division director at the National Science Foundation. "This research support is crucial to our educational system and our competitive position as an industrial nation."

"NSFNET links more than 1,000 university, business and government research networks and provides access to several supercomputer centers funded by the NSF," said Eric M. Aupperle, president of Merit. "The NSFNET partnership is committed to providing researchers at these institutions with the immediate access to high technology equipment they need to do their work."

"This is the cutting edge of data networking, especially on a national scale. This demonstration exemplifies the commitment of the NSFNET project partnership to push telecommunications technology to ensure that our research community has high-speed access to information resources across the country and around the world," said Lawrence J. Bouman, senior vice president, program management and systems planning for MCI.

/NOTE: RISC System/6000 is a trademark of International Business Machines Corporation./

CONTACT: Kathleen Ryan of IBM Corporation, 914-945-2958; Kathleen McClatchey of Merit Computer Network, 313-936-3000; or Doug Dome of MCI Communications Corporation, 312-938-4995/


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