Thanks to Mike Nelson at IBM for providing this update about the Internet2 members’ meeting held in downtown Los Angeles. Internet2 is a consortium of about 200 colleges and universities and about 50 corporate partners working together to deploy and demonstrate high-speed networking applications. Internet2‘s Abilene backbone network runs at 2.4 gigabit/second with plans to upgrade it to 10 gigabit/second. There was a lot of discussion about videoconferencing, optical networking, authentication systems, high-speed networking in the movie and television industry, and new applications using IPv6 on the Abilene network.
While industry participation was less extensive in the past, most of the big players (Cisco, Nortel, Juniper, H-P, Microsoft) were there. Cisco was the most obvious, with at least 8 people attending. A number of large non-IT companies who are heavy users of high-speed networking were also there (e.g., Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson).A few observations based on the talks and demonstrations I saw:1) Videoconferencing is becoming routine on campus and moving to the desktop. Internet2 has done a lot to promote video-conferencing, particularly VRVF and Access Grid, which were developed originally by the high-energy physics community. While most Internet2 videoconferencing systems have been based on H.323, more and more work is done using the SIP protocol.
One interesting project was the Mega-conference IV being held December 10, which claims to be the world’s largest interactive video conference – Details at www.megaconference.org. The movie industry is going digital very quickly. In conjunction with the meeting, the University of Southern California hosted an afternoon of demonstrations, including several showing 300-400 megabit-per-second streaming video from halfway across the country. The most impressive demonstration was at the Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, which showed several digital movies and computer simulations projected onto a full-size movie screen using a prototype JVC Super High Definition Digital Video projector. The projector provides 2000 scan lines per inch and an image every bit as sharp and rich as 70 mm film.3) One evening, Internet2 and USC organized a performance of music and dance, where “virtual performers” thousands of miles away interacted with dancers and musicians on stage. A high-definition television feed of a performance by the New World Symphony in Miami delivered at 400 megabits/second was almost as compelling as a live concert. Unfortunately, some of the dance pieces suffered when network glitches caused images of remote dancers to freeze or jerk. Still it was impressive when a brass quartet separated by several hundred miles could play together seamlessly over the network.4) The academic community is demanding open standards based solutions.In particular, there was a great deal of interest in Shibboleth, an authentication system built around standards developed by the MACE working group. Over 30 institutions, including several providers of curricula and on-line resources, are experimenting with the Shibboleth prototype.
There was general reluctance to sign up for Microsoft’s Passport system.5) Internet2 and several of their foreign counterparts (e.g. CANARIE,SurfNet) are investing heavily in optical networking. The Chairman of the Board of Internet2 announced that the Board had approved a resolution committing $10 million in Internet2 funding for an Optical Network Facility Project. This project will be launched once adequate commitments are received from Internet2 members and government agencies. Apparently, some of the regional research networks (e.g. CENIC) and corporate partners have already signed on.The agenda of the Internet2 members meeting is available at events.internet2.edu.