T3 Demos Give Glimpse Into Not-Too-Distant Future

By Laura Kelleher

The National Net '91 conference provided a glimpse into the future with the demonstration of five applications currently under development for the network. The NSFNET partnership provided both T3 and T1 connectivity to the conference's demonstration rooms. The five demonstrators used various applications to fully utilize the high bandwidth.


The CONCERT Network, the statewide network for education, research, and technology in North Carolina, the North Carolina Supercomputer Center, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill joined efforts to develop a Shared X Windows Collaboratory workstation environment.

The Shared X Windows environment, called XTV (X Terminal View), is a distributed system for sharing X Windows applications synchronously among a group of remotely located users at workstations running X and interconnected by the Internet. In effect, XTV converts familiar X clients from single-user to multi-user without modification to source code, libraries, application behavior, or X servers.

At Net '91, four IBM RS6000(TM) workstations were connected to local Ethernet and then to the Internet to demonstrate a collaborative session, which illustrated how users interact with the XTV system to start sessions and client applications, and to pass control among session participants. Viewers were invited to use the XTV system with their own X applications executing on their own home machines elsewhere on the Internet.

University of California at Berkeley

The graphically intense demonstration by the University of California at Berkeley highlighted the benefits of the high-speed NSFNET infrastructure for image transmission and showed the utility of network-based applications for increasing the availability of unique, highly-valued information bases, including museum and library collections.

The University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and Digital Equipment Corporation used a DECstation 5000 workstation to run ImageQuery and ImageView. These two programs were developed for the Berkeley Image Database Project and are used to access online catalogs at the University of California at Berkeley.

In addition to querying the catalogs and perusing textual catalog contents, high quality color images of catalogued objects were displayed. Image data were transmitted from the two California sites to the Net '91 demo room via the NSFNET. The Berkeley demonstration also illustrated the benefits gained by transmitting images at T3 versus T1.

"Before operation of the high-speed T3 NSFNET, real-time network transmission of images and other large amounts of data over wide-area networks was too slow for practical use," commented Ken Lindahl of the Advanced Technology Planning group at UC Berkeley. "Thus, this demonstration highlights the tremendous benefits of the transcontinental T3 NSFNET."

Cornell Theory Center

The Cornell Center for Theory and Simulation in Science and Engineering provided an IBM RS6000(TM) and a Sun SparcStation as platforms to demonstrate the Scientist's Workbench, a unifying graphic user interface and an integrated set of tools designed for easy and transparent multi system network access. From this environment, viewers were given insights into two different distributed computing applications: visualization and distributed parallel computing.

Image compression techniques and supercomputer "enhancement" of geologic data from the Global Basins Research Network were used to produce a visual representation of the subsurface topology of a few square miles of the coast of Louisiana while Basic Linear Algebra Subroutines and networked computer resources were used to illustrate the capabilities of distributed parallel processes. All of these actions were controlled and monitored from the Scientist's Workbench.

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center (PSC) and Sun Microsystems, provided a demonstration of an important distributed application requiring workstation access to supercomputers via a very high speed, wide area network.

This demonstration was a real-time, interactive visualization of 3-D medical tomographic data (e.g. NMR). A Cray II at PSC performed the compute-intensive visualization process and then sent visual output via the new T3 NSFNET to be rendered on a Sun workstation on the demo room floor. A graphical interface on the Sun allowed a user to interactively explore the tomographic reconstruction, automatically sending new parameters to the Cray for re-rendering as the exploration proceeded.

The demonstration represented one model of how scientists and physicians can benefit from the combination of local, inexpensive workstations, high-speed networking and remote supercomputer facilities.

National Center for Supercomputer Applications/AT&T

The National Center for Supercomputer Applications and AT&T presented a demonstration that allowed a user to interact with a remote digital library. Using a Sun SparcStation and an FDDI-connected Sun 4 they demonstrated the capabilities of an intuitive user interact able to query a remote database to discover the contents and characteristics of a multi-media digital library (residing at NCSA). Concurrently, a  network analysis package allowed the user to predict the performance of the application in the currently running environment and under various simulated network environments.

The Net '91 demonstrations of applications currently under development for the network help to illustrate that as NSFNET continues to provide higher and higher networking performance, many existing problems will be answered faster and more easily through the use of the national network.

Taken from The Link Letter, Vol. 4 No. 1, March/April 1991.