NSF Agreement Will Help Researchers Make The Most Of High Performance Network

January 21, 1998

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $2 million over 30 months to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign to help university users with high performance networking applications. The National Laboratory for Applied Networking Research (NLANR): Distributed Applications Support Team will help researchers maximize their use of NSF's very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS) for science and engineering research.

"It is not enough to simply provide the networking service of the vBNS," said George Strawn, NSF division director for Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research. "We need to make sure the users have the tools to conduct their research over the 'net, be it visualizations of the beating heart, connecting connections of 3-D virtual environments or models of earthquakes."

The NLANR applications team will help users maximize performance of their applications, solve network problems, maintain information and links about applications and provide training to network and applications engineers.

"NCSA's focus has always been on the end-user of technology, whether they are users of supercomputers, high performance networks, or both," said Charles E. Catlett, NCSA's senior associate director for science and technology. "Through the Distributed Applications Support Team, we're leveraging NCSA's user support and advanced applications development experience to provide help for vBNS users through training, consulting, and in some cases, pitching in on application development and debugging."

Previously, NLANR was a collaborative effort among five initial vBNS sites. Those were the San Diego Supercomputer Center, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center, the Cornell Theory Center and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. NLANR provided for engineering, technical support and coordination of the supercomputer center connections and a small number of remote users involved in accessing the centers via the vBNS.

"As the vBNS has grown to include substantial connections to university campuses, NLANR activities must also expand to encompass support for the new users, sites and applications as well as continued measurement and testing of an expanded network," Strawn said. This new award encompasses applications support; other awards to NLANR team members are expected to provide network -engineering support for institutions connecting to the vBNS, and traffic measurement and operations analysis of the vBNS and interconnected institutions.

Since 1995, NSF and MCI have provided the very high performance Backbone Network Service, initially linking five NSF supercomputer centers. Sixty-three universities have been approved for connections; approximately 100 research institutions, chosen through a peer review process, will be connected. The next round of connections is expected to be approved soon. The network currently runs at 622 megabits per second and is expected to operate at 2.4 gigabits per second (2,400 mbps) by the year 2000. The NSF's vBNS is a part of the presidential Next Generation Internet initiative and also serves as an initial interconnect for the corresponding Internet2 university effort.
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