Fiber-Optic Network Gains 6 New Members, Enough to Go National
of research universities that is creating an $80-million fiber-optic
computer network announced on Wednesday that it had added six members,
enough to extend the network to most portions of the country.
called the National LambdaRail, initially will operate four separate
national computer networks, each with a capacity equal to the most
powerful national research network now in operation, the Abilene
network operated by the Internet2 organization. LambdaRail will
accomplish that feat by transmitting data over four different wavelengths
of light. Each wavelength will be able to carry as much data as
Abilene, and the fiber-optic network eventually could offer 40 such
of research universities owns the LambaRail network. Other research
networks, like Abilene, instead have used leased telecommunications
lines. Thomas W. West, president and chief executive of National
LambdaRail, said groups of scholars -- like physicists around the
world who want to collaborate with one another -- eventually may
be able to lease wavelengths for their own use.
LambdaRail is being constructed
from unused fiber-optic lines sold or donated by telecommunications
companies and network equipment sold to the consortium at a steep
discount by Cisco Systems Inc., an Internet-network company.
The consortium is selecting
its network links according to the locations of its members, which
must each pay $5-million over five years. "We're sort of following
the money," said Mr. West.
Since the first segment
of the network, running from Pittsburgh to Chicago, became operational,
in November, the network has added service to several other cities,
including Atlanta; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, N.C.; Seattle; Sunnyvale,
Calif.; and Washington. The network is scheduled to be completed
by the spring of 2005.
Four of the new members
are consortia or state education bodies: the Louisiana Board of
Regents, the Oklahoma State Board of Regents, the Texas Lonestar
Education and Research Network, and the University Corporation for
Atmospheric Research. The latter group will provide connections
for institutions in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
The other two new members
are individual institutions: Cornell University and the University
of New Mexico.
Officials at Cornell hope
to share their connection -- and its cost -- with other institutions.
Other colleges in New York and New England, and computer networks
serving those regions, were unable to find the funds to join LambdaRail
on their own, said Polley Ann McClure, Cornell's chief information
officer. But with Cornell's having made the upfront commitment,
the others avoid having to commit the full $5-million, making it
cheaper for them to join, she said.
With enough partners,
Cornell's cost could drop to $100,000 annually, she said. Cornell
will save at least that amount from other savings on its network
costs, made possible by routing some of its Internet traffic along
the same fiber-optic line that will connect the Ithaca campus with
National LambdaRail's facility in New York City.