Pacific Northwest Gigapop


News & Events

University of Washington raises the Internet speed limit for the Northwest


FROM: Bob Roseth
DATE: Sept. 28, 1998

The University of Washington today announced two major milestones in advanced Internet connectivity for the Pacific Northwest. Both developments are part of UW's Pacific Northwest Gigapop project, the recipient of significant support from the 1998 Washington State Legislature.

First, UW became one of four inaugural sites directly connected to the new Internet2 "Abilene" network, a national high-performance backbone network intended to support advanced application research and development. The Abilene project is a collaboration of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), Qwest Communications, Nortel, and Cisco Systems. UW's attachment bandwidth to the Abilene backbone network is an impressive 622 Mbps (an OC-12c circuit in the terminology of the underlying SONET technology) -- over 300 times the capacity of the typical high-speed attachment deployed in today's Internet.

Second, UW has completed its connection to the "very high performance Backbone Network Service" (vBNS), a complementary national high-speed research network funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by MCI Worldcom. Notably, UW is the first vBNS site to attach using the more efficient "Packet-over-SONET" (POS) transmission technology, as opposed to the earlier Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technology. A POS circuit provides over 20% more Internet throughput than an ATM circuit of the same bandwidth. UW is connected to the vBNS at a bandwidth of 155 Mbps (OC-3c in SONET terms).

Note: A map of both networks is attached.

"This is terrific news for research and educational institutions in the Northwest and particularly in Washington State," according to Professor Ed Lazowska, chair of the University of Washington's Department of Computer Science & Engineering department and a member of the Internet2 network research liaison council. "Not only will faculty and students at UW and other Northwest institutions benefit, but the bandwidth will stimulate regional economic development in ways we can't begin to anticipate." "The activation of vBNS has caused great excitement over here," said Professor Craig Hogan, chair of UW's Astronomy department. Astronomy researcher Thomas Quinn observed a factor of 10-20 improvement in performance over the vBNS compared to his prior work using the UW's commodity Internet connection.

The University gratefully acknowledges the substantial support that it has received from Cisco Systems in providing state-of-the-art routing equipment for the Abilene connection on very short notice. The University was invited to participate in the Abilene "alpha" network rollout in late August, and the UW's connection to the Abilene network became operational barely one month later - in time for this week's Internet2 meeting and Abilene announcement today in San Francisco.

As one demonstration of the capabilities of the Abilene network, the Research Television consortium, a UW-led group of major universities and corporate research centers dedicated to the distribution of video materials featuring research and education, is showing its very high-quality on-demand video streaming service at the Internet2 members meeting. The consortium is providing MPEG2 DirectTV quality video distribution over the new Abilene backbone. "This is just the beginning," according to Amy Philipson, who leads the Research TV consortium. "Our goal is to push the state of the art in video distribution and determine what the barriers are to increasing the quality and timeliness of video content delivery in an advanced network environment such as Abilene." This too is a major component of the national Internet2 multimedia network and middleware partnership being announced today at the Internet2 meeting in SF.

Both of these national network connections are part of UW's "Pacific NorthWest Gigapop" project. A Gigapop is a regional hub for high-speed Internet connections and services, and provides the foundation for efficient distribution of and access to advanced network services in a geographic region. The UW's Pacific Northwest Gigapop was founded earlier this year, when the Washington State Legislature provided substantial startup funding. These connections to the vBNS and Abilene networks represent the first tangible results of this partnership between UW and the state legislature.


Contact Information:

Ron Johnson 206 543-8252 206 605-3021 cell
Ed Lazowska 206 543-4755

Amy PhilipsonInternet2