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Gigabit network takes shape.

Gigabit Network Takes Shape

Convinced that access to extremely high-speed computer networks will greatly aid the United States' diverse research community, a group of respected national businesses, universities, and research laboratories is banding together to create networks able to transmit data 700 times faster than currently possible. The diverse group of corporations and organizations resembles another already assembled in Japan to accomplish the same objective.

The networks being developed are called gigabit networks because of their ability to transport approximately a billion bits of data per second. They will enable researchers to transmit the volumes of data required for applications such as realtime analysis of sensor data, biomedical imaging, weather and severe storm modeling, and geologic mapping. They would also allow data to be transmitted and received by a television-computer hybrid that would transmit manipulable movie-quality images.

The research work is going on at five testbeds - Casa, which includes the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and Los Alamos National Laboratories; Blanca, which includes the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of Illinois and its National Center for Supercomputer Applications; Aurora, which includes MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, IBM's Research Laboratories, and Bell Communications Research (Bellcore); Nectar, which is the team of Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center; and Vistanet, the effort of the University of North Carolina and the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina.

Each of the centers has a different schedule and is testing or prototyping different equipment, but all of the efforts focus on the emerging Sonnet and ATM standards for gigabit speed transmission. "The thrust of the research collaboration is that we're looking to technologies and network architectures that will build upon what the carriers are actually doing. The capability to send data at gigabyte rates should appear by 1991," said Dick Binder, a principal scientist at the Corp. for National Research Initiatives (CNRI, Reston, Va.).

CNRI is the organization that conceived of the project. It is coordinating the research efforts of the organizations it enlisted to work on the project and is distributing the funding it has garnered. The need for the project was conceived by Robert E. Kahn, the president of CNRI and a former director of computer science research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, Washington, D.C.), and David J. Farber, a computer scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We want to learn what difference it would make to the research community if they had access to gigabit speed communications. Then, given that we know it's an important capability, we'll determine how to actually provide it on a larger scale," said Kahn.

Thus far Kahn's organization has been awarded a total of $15.8 million from the National Science Foundation and DARPA. The amount of industry's contribution is expected to exceed the federal award "in multiples of the government funding," according to Binder.

The businesses supporting the venture by donating money, facilities, and human resources include IBM Corp. (Armonk, N.Y.), AT&T (Morristown, N.J.), Bellcore (Morristown, N.J.), MCI, and GTE. The companies will also be contributing switching, interface, and computer equipment.
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Title Annotation:high speed data transmission
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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