16 Apr UW-Madison launches new high-speed research network
Madison, Wis. – University of Wisconsin System researchers are in an even better position to land federal research grants, and stimulate economic development, as the result of a new research network that is one million times the capacity of a typical home broadband connection.
The network, which makes the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Internet access-up to 20,000 times faster than a home broadband connection, is the result of demands by federal granting agencies that have been stressing both computing power and research collaboration between institutions of higher learning.
Known as the Broadband Optical Research, Education, and Sciences Network, or BOREAS-Net, it forms a loop of fiber optic cable between UW-Madison, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Minnesota.
Ed Meachen, associate vice president of learning and information technology for the University of Wisconsin System, said the revamped network would improve connectivity for researchers throughout the UW System.
“We needed to satisfy granting agencies that take a look at your network infrastructure before they give you research grants,” Meachen said.
That’s especially true, he added, if the institutions typically move large amounts of data.
Good to be in the loop
BOREAS-Net, which features two links to Internet2, at Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., is so robust that any outage – anywhere in the loop – is essentially unnoticed because traffic is rerouted at the speed of light to the other access point, according to Ken Frazier, interim CIO for UW-Madison.
This capacity and redundancy is essential and a huge draw for research grants that rely on state-of-the-art network service, he added.
The use of this optical network enables members to manage their own bandwidth and maintain a greater degree of flexibility in supporting research and education services.
It also has plenty of room for future growth. As program needs change or new research programs start, access can be enabled quickly, and new paths, or “lambdas,” can be added without major cost.
Another benefit will be “peering, or trading access at no additional cost. The University of Washington is establishing a dedicated optical network to Kansas City that, once in place, will enable UW-Madison to trade access to Chicago to the University of Washington for access to the west coast.
Brian Rust, a spokesman for UW-Madison’s Division of Information Technology, said the access and speed not only puts university researchers in a positive position to write grant proposals, the fiber optic connections in Chicago and Kansas City enable them to connect directly at higher speeds with institutions they are collaborating with. A UW-Madison department, for example, could use a dedicated 10 gigabit connection to link up with collaborators on another campus.
Even though each university has achieved major breakthroughs in connectivity to support research and educational programming, a breakthrough that none would have been able to accomplish on their own, the new network did not require participating universities to invest significant sums of money. The cost to UW-Madison in the first five years is $1.5 million.
The UW-Madison physics and computer sciences departments needed to increase dedicated bandwidth, to 10 Gigabits per second, for their Large Hadron Collider research project. If this bandwidth were purchased on existing commercial contracts, the annual cost would have been more than $3 million. Through BOREAS-Net, there are no annual bandwidth costs, and the one-time cost was about $100,000 for access that was established in a matter of days.
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