NSF Announces Additional Funds

Remaining Eight Nodes Will Move To T3

By Ken Horning

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a $6 million addition to Merit Network, Inc.'s NSFNET cooperative agreement toupgrade eight additional NSFNET T1 backbone end nodes to T3 service. Merit along with its partners, Advanced Network and Services (ANS); IBM Corporation; MCI Communications Corporation; and the State of Michigan, will begin work immediately on the installations. The upgrades will bring the NSFNET T3 backbone nodes to a total of sixteen.

"This comprehensive expansion of the NSFNET to T3 capacity represents an unprecedented advance in the technological capacity of nationalcomputer networking and further demonstrates our commitment to maintaining the NSFNET as the world's leading computer network for the support of research and education," said Dr. Stephen S. Wolff, Division Director, Division of Networking and Communications Research and Infrastructure, at the NSF.

Total funding now at $28 million

A $7.9 million addition to the agreement to fund the first eight end nodes on the T3 backbone was announced by NSF last May. Details on the current state of the T3 upgrade may be found on page 4 of this issue.

The new award will provide expansion to T3 service for all of the current NSFNET T1 backbone sites not already part of the T3 backbone, and brings the Foundation's funding for the NSFNET project to $28 million. Addition of the eight new sites in Atlanta, GA; Boulder, CO; College Park, MD; Houston, TX; Lincoln, NE; Princeton, NJ; Salt Lake City, UT; and Seattle, WA, will make the NSFNET, which now links nearly 2,300 university, industry and government research networks, the nation's largest and fastest research and education computer network.

"NSFNET is significantly expanding the networking capability of our nation's researchers with this T3 expansion by involving more people in more places, and though it is difficult to predict what the most exciting use of the new bandwidth will be, the effect of connecting more users to this level of computing power is inherently synergistic," said Eric M. Aupperle, President of Merit Network, Inc.

"We at Merit are very pleased with the outstanding advances of the NSFNET backbone," said Dr. Douglas E. Van Houweling, member of the Merit Network, Inc. Board of Directors and Vice-Provost for Information Technology at the University of Michigan. "T3 services will enrich the already outstanding high-speed technology of the NSFNET and the new sites will extend access to this critical data superhighway."

Upgrading the entire NSFNET to T3 bandwidth will make many new applications possible which were not previously available to researchers.

"This extension of T3 bandwidth capacity is extremely important. Each quantum jump in the NSFNET's capacity has qualitatively changed the methods of connecting humans to computers and computers to computers," said Larry Smarr, Director, National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"We can expect to see interaction at remote sites increase in three major areas as a result of T3 services throughout the NSFNET: interactive computing, visualization, and collaboration; all of which are crucial to fostering important research and progress in many disciplines and technologies," added Smarr.

New technology

The model developed for high-speed backbone transmission involves a new generation of Nodal Switching Subsystem technology developed by IBM. Advanced circuit technology for the T3 upgrade is being provided by MCI. The architecture for the T3 network utilizes a collection of Core Nodal Switching Subsystems (C-NSS) within the MCI infrastructure, forming a cloud of co-located packet switching capability. Exterior Nodal Switching Subsystems (E-NSS) are located at client sites and connect into a C-NSS cloud.

An early glimpse of this new technology was provided by the NSFNET partnership last March at the National Net '90 conference when they transmitted information over a T3 clear channel link between Washington, D.C. and Ann Arbor, MI, in the first demonstration of high-speed networking on a public access network.

The upgrade of the remaining sites to T3 capacity is scheduled to be completed over the next few months. At that time, it is anticipated that the existing T1 backbone will no longer be maintained at operational status.

Taken from The Link Letter, Vol. 3 No. 6, January/February 1991.