NSFNET Links to Europe Across the Pond

By Merit/NSFNET Information Services

With the NSFNET partnership announcement of a new international T1 link, researchers will have high-speed access to the European continent- enabling further collaboration between scientists, supercomputers and sources of high-technology information on both sides of the Atlantic.

Announcement at Net '90

The NSFNET partnership - the National Science Foundation, the Merit Computer Network, IBM Corporation, MCI Communications Corporation, and the State of Michigan - made the United States announcement of the link at the National Net '90 networking conference in Washington, D.C. on March 15th.

IBM, MCI support

IBM, with support from MCI, is sponsoring the new trans-Atlantic service that will enable NSFNET to provide a large and fast data communications pipeline between the continents.

This new connection will speed the exchange of information in such critical areas as studying global change, mapping the human gene, analyzing particle physics, exploring space and predicting weather.

"Access to these kinds of resources, especially at higher speeds, will make it possible for researchers here and in Europe to share technology, information, and expertise in new and important ways," said Stephen S. Wolff, a division director at the National Science Foundation.

Wolff continued, "It is clear that this kind of collaboration has the potential to speed up the research process and lead us to new scientific breakthroughs that today we cannot even imagine."

IBM provides hardware, software

IBM provides the NSFNET with hardware and software for all of the network routing, management and information services.

The same IBM switching technology used in the United States for NSFNET will transport data packets through the European gateway and throughout several countries in western Europe.

MCI provides link

MCI provides an international link that connects the NSFNET to the European Academic Supercomputer Initiative Network (EASInet), a partnership of IBM and 18 European academic and research institutions in nine European countries.

European connection at CERN

The European gateway, which connects EASInet to the trans-Atlantic link, is at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), on the French-Swiss border near Geneva.

MCI's Fiberline Digital Service (SM) is provided via TAT-8, the trans-Atlantic undersea digital fiber optic cable system.

The link operates at T1 speed, the equivalent of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps), or nearly 200,000 characters per second. This provides faster throughput and reduced message delay time compared with existing low-speed international satellite links.

To support Fiberline services on TAT-8, MCI constructed a dedicated digital facility directly connecting its network with its operations center at the Tuckerton, N.J. cablehead.

U.S. gateway at Ithaca, NY

The U.S. gateway for the trans-Atlantic link is at the Cornell National Supercomputer Facility at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

The private line circuit enters the MCI Global Highway network via the MCI International Test and Maintenance Center in New York City. The center accepts the NSFNET access line and transports traffic to the N.J. cablehead.

Additional Information on the International Link

By Pat Smith

The international connection between New York and Switzerland, was a DS1 (1.544 Mb/sec) link on TAT-8 fiber. Roundtrip times of 94 ms were achieved on this trans-Atlantic connection.

A graphic representation of the configuration is shown below.

The NSFNET announces a large number of networks to the CERN-gate which, in turn, announces those nets to the CERN cisco. The gateways are talking Exterior Gateway Protocol between the various Autonomous Systems.

Eventually the CERN token ring will be the focal point for IP connectivity for the 18 EASInet sites. GMD proposes to share the plan and schedule for additional gateways on the token ring as the plan becomes formalized.

Taken from The Link Letter, Vol. 3 No. 1, April 1990.