Internet2 in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Mar 3, 1997) — 
Internet 2 is a high performance networking initiative whose mission is to:
Facilitate and coordinate the development, deployment, operation and technology transfer of advanced, network-based applications and network services to further U.S. leadership in research and higher education and accelerate the availability of new services and applications on the Internet.

The four Ohio institutions that have joined in this effort - Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, The Ohio State University, and the University of Cincinnati have taken the first steps to investing in the networking technology that will facilitate the participation of the faculty at this institutions in these efforts. This includes becoming formal members of the Internet 2 consortium as well as focusing efforts on reviewing the current status of networking on their campuses. The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) has taken a leadership role in coordinating these efforts.

Before this network is implemented, a number of local, regional, and national network design and applications questions must be addressed. If addressed in a comprehensive way, Ohio is well positioned to allow these and other institutions of higher education in the State take part in these networking innovations. The purpose of this document is to set forth the major issues that must be addressed before network implementation. The issues revolve around the nature of the network investments that must be made in Ohio, the types of applications that might use high performance networking, and organizing Ohio efforts to take advantage of economies of scale and shared expertise.

This is intended as a working document which will change based on information from each of the original Internet 2 Ohio members as well as potential additions from other members of the higher education community within the State. Details concerning the national Internet 2 efforts can be obtained from the Internet 2 web site.

The major issues to be discussed revolve around five overlapping areas:

  1. Who will connect to Internet 2 and how might these connections be handled in Ohio?
  2. How might Ohio institutions, through OSC Networking, share the cost of connecting to this network by hosting or being part of a GIGAPOP site (a major network management node)?
  3. What types of planning and implementation of network infrastructure must take place at each campus that participates and what is the current status of those networks?
  4. How will the project be funded?
  5. What are the research relationships that will require Internet 2 connectivity?

Who Will Connect?

According to the tentative "rules" about the use of the Internet 2 network, the use is to be limited to Internet 2 (I2) members. For the most part, these are the major research institutions in the US. However, the preliminary organizational discussions also provide some flexibility for other types of exchanges with community and business partners within a state or region.

There are some clear ties among Internet 2 institutions that will probably need this network capacity. For example, one could foresee exchanges among major research groups in the Big 10 institutions, exchanges of data among Ohio medical schools, and disciplinary exchanges that go from Ohio institutions to many places across the US. One can also see the logical extension of connections between Universities and large Federal facilities such as the Department of Energy labs, NASA, and the NSF supercomputing centers.

Because OSC Networking serves 75 Colleges and Universities with Internet 1 connections, including the four current members, there may also be some unique opportunities here for the exchange of information and use of the network across a larger number of institutions. Facilitating such exchanges will require the on-going, state-wide coordination of networking efforts and the structuring of a set of rules and prices for allowing other institutions to use this network while still complying with any national usage rules.

There may also be opportunities for private sector partnerships involving Internet 2. These partnerships will not only bring potential economic benefits to the Ohio firms that use the network but will also provide a mechanism for offsetting the cost of running the high performance network. As applications are better defined (see section 3) particular attention should be paid to the possible development of private partnerships.

Partnerships for National Network Connections - Gigapops

The major network management nodes in Internet 2 have been named gigapops (for "gigabit capacity point of presence") -- a high-capacity, interconnection point where I2 participants may exchange advanced services traffic. Ohio could potentially serve as an "official" gigapop site, hosting the connection of both Ohio and other institutions to Internet 2. Alternatively, OSC Networking could collect the traffic from Ohio institutions and distribute them to one or more gigapops in other states.

During the January Internet 2 meeting, discussions were held with several institutions that might serve as locations of gigapops. The most logical extensions of the network are with surrounding states. All of the Big 10 institutions and the University of Chicago are participating in Internet 2. Chicago is one of the likely gigapop sites with existing high speed connections to a number of institutions. Other logical connections could be through Indiana, Kentucky, or Pennsylvania.

Which of these options will be optimal will ultimately depend on the final design of the network and the prices for the high capacity network connections set by the long distance carriers. These connections are likely to be expensive commodities with prices based on distance.

Aside from price, the nature of the institutional partnerships discussed earlier will be important considerations in network design. One will ideally want the most direct connections among institutions where the greatest traffic is expected.

The final network design will have to take into account both of these cost and efficiency/institutional questions. As we begin to implement designs, the pros and cons of alternative gigapop locations must be carefully evaluated.

Campus Level Planning Issues

Membership in Internet 2 allows the institutions to utilized the high speed network once it is in place. However, this network capacity will do little good if the campus network infrastructure is not capable of handling these network speeds. Under I2, each campus is responsible for their own network infrastructure. For Ohio institutions, this implies a set of network planning tasks that need to be accomplished relatively soon.

Table 1 is an outline of the major components of a campus plan for high speed networking. We would suggest that each campus begin to examine these issues and create a document that can become a part of our state-wide network planning efforts.

Table 1: Outline of Campus Planning Needed for High Speed Networking

Task Explanation/Issues
Campus network backbone capacity What is the current capacity?
Should high performance traffic be separated or part of a campus-wide upgrade?
Where should upgrades be made first?
What are the technical options and costs?
Applications for high speed networking Are there current needs for this bandwidth?
What are the potential future applications and their needs for bandwidth? Who are the faculty on campus that will use this capacity?
What types of incentives should be in place to encourage wise use of the network resources?
How will priorities be set when there are conflicting uses? How is use to be scheduled and paid for?
End user infrastructure What additional investments are needed at the user end of the network (special hardware; software)?
Should there be a campus standard for various applications?
How should network capacity upgrades be integrated with uses for telephone and video networks?
How can network costs be shared across different end-user applications?
Network upgrade plan What types of investments need to be scheduled to create a useable network?
What types of staff changes are required to support high speed networking?

As table 1 indicates, there are a number of complicated campus issues that must be resolved before connection to Internet 2 can proceed. We would hope that the campuses can share expertise with each other and that OSC Networking and OSC can offer additional expertise to help accomplish these planning tasks.

Funding network investments

Both the campus and state-wide network investments will require substantial investments. As the planning process takes place, it will be important to assemble the total costs and to make a strong case for the need for the additional network capacity.

Funding will involve a mix of grants that are likely to be available through the Federal government, partnerships with private firms, investments through state capital and operating funds, and investments by each of the institutions from their current and future budgets. Needless to say, the network investments will need to vie for scarce resources at every level. If Ohio institutions are to compete for Federal resources and the state is asked to invest in these efforts, careful analyses must be made of the applications that will be implemented and their benefits to the competitiveness of the institutions in research and teaching.

Defining Research and Related Connection Needs

If Internet 2 is to be successful, the applications of the network must be carefully tied to the inter-institutional connections for research and education among I2 members and partners. At the outset, as the other planning questions get addressed, special attention should be paid to these relationships as they may impact the relationships among I2 institutions.

Of utmost importance are the research-based relationships between I2 institutions and related government facilities. Certain types of research may not be possible without the investment in high performance networking. Existing relationships with Federal facilities and other public and private research facilities that could use I2 capacity must be carefully defined.

Similarly, we will need to detail some of the other potential benefits from high speed network connections. Extensive video conferening may allow advances in both instruction and research, allowing real-time demonstrations of specialized facilities far removed from a particular research lab or classroom. Here again, special attention should be given to these potential applications and integrated into the planning for Internet 2.

Next Steps

Implementation of the planning requirements will need to proceed as quickly as possible. Below we set forth the major tasks along with a proposed list of participants. We expect that the release of this document will generate a good deal of additional discussion and major changes to this initial list.

Major Implementation Steps for Internet 2

Task Responsibility
Design of Ohio gigapop or related facilities OSC Networking for presentation to members
Estimation of state-wide network needs OSC and OSC Networking Plan by each campus; advice from OSC Networking as needed
Campus network upgrade needs Plan by each campus; advice from OSC Networking as needed
Negotiation for gigapop status OSC takes the lead with campus assistance; OSU particularly needed for Big 10 integration
Define major applications for Ohio Plan by each campus; advice from OSC Networking as needed
Define current research related partners Plan by each campus; OSC via definition of its users
Management plan for high speed networking applications Initial ideas by OSC; distributed to campuses for discussion. Will require some network design answers first.
Potential for private partners All

Appendix - Joint Position Statement of Ohio Internet 2 Members

Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, The Ohio State University, and the University of Cincinnati strongly support the establishment of an Ohio GigaPop site to be managed by OSC Networking.

OSC Networking, an Ohio Board of Regents' initiative directed by the Ohio Supercomputer Center, connects Ohio's higher education institutions, state and local governments, higher education's library network, and public libraries. OSC Networking also provides Internet access for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and several Kentucky colleges.

OSC Networking has strong partnerships with the 75 colleges and universities it serves. On-going partnerships with CICNET, MCI, and other network service providers as well as close operating collaboration with OSU and the other Ohio Internet II universities gives OSC Networking the expertise, working relationships, and physical connectivity required to make the State of Ohio a fully functional "GigaPop".

Current Network Arrangements

OSC Networking has a joint operating agreement with CICNet featuring a private DS3 connection between the two networks and joint operation of three geographically dispersed DS3 connections to MCI and other regional and national networks. OSC Networking has an OC12 Sonnet ring in Columbus and DS3 connections to POPs throughout Ohio. An additional DS3 to Pittsburgh's PREPnet and Detroit's OSC Networking-CICNet POP location are under discusion.

High Speed Network Projects

Several experimental networking projects are propelling Ohio to the forefront of network utilization for research and instruction.

  • OSC Networking will soon be connected to the NSF vBNS Gateway point of presence in North Royalton, Ohio.
  • OSU, OSC, and seven other Ohio public and private institutions with state funding are creating the Ohio Computing and Communications ATM Research Network (OCARnet). Researchers in Computer and Information Science and related engineering disciplines will use this network to experiment, develop applications, and teach in high performance computing and networking.
  • Researchers at OSU, OSC and NASA Lewis are collaborating on Project MISSION (Medical Imaging Support via Satellite Integrated Optical Network) featuring experiments using ACTS (Advanced Communication Technology (Satellite) and supercomputing and graphic visualization power to validate novel medical applications.

Researchers at Ohio University and NASA Lewis are conducting joint studies on the performance of data communications protocols over satellite links. Ohio University houses a NASA ACTS earthstation (T1 VSAT type).