The University Record, May 20, 1997

Internet 2 will make early stop at U-M

Editor's Note: This article is excerpted from one by Janet Eaton of the Information Technology Division that appeared in the April 14, 1997, issue of ITDigest. The full text is available on the ITDigest web site.

Imagine the future. Imagine a physician at the Medical Center reviewing live ultrasound images of a patient being examined in a rural medical facility. Imagine a U-M student participating in a virtual reality experiment with students at several universities as easily as if all participants were in the same room. Imagine a U-M faculty member, working with colleagues at other universities, remotely manipulating delicate scientific equipment located in Greenland.

Now imagine doing all that on the current Internet, and you've got problems.

"More and more of the capacity of the Internet is being filled," explains Jose-Marie Griffiths, chief information officer and executive director of the Information Technology Division (ITD). "As academic institutions get ready to notch up to the next level of technology use, the bandwidth just isn't there."

Indeed, many people at the U-M are already pushing the limits of the Internet. For them, and for researchers and educators across the country, the nation's universities are building Internet 2---a significantly faster, more advanced network.

"Internet 2 will enable a new set of network-based applications through extension of the Internet Protocol standards," says Douglas Van Houweling, dean of academic outreach and vice provost for information technology, who serves as a member of the Internet 2 Steering Committee.

He adds, "Those extensions will both fix fundamental flaws that prevent the scaling of today's Internet and enable the Internet to support new applications in information sharing and human collaboration."

The U-M is among the leaders of the project to develop Internet 2 because it is important to the University that its students, faculty and staff be able to implement the ideas they imagine. Other leaders include Pennsylvania State and Stanford universities and the universities of California, Chicago, and North Carolina. Internet 2 is expected to be many times faster than the current Internet. To take advantage of that speed, participating universities will need to upgrade their campus networking. Planning for network upgrades already is under way.

As a charter member of the Internet 2 Project, the U-M will be among the first universities connected to it. Both the U-M and Michigan State University are charter members of Internet 2; Merit is an affiliate member.

"We are very much at the beginning stage," emphasizes Ted Hanss, staff lead for the Internet 2 Applications Working Group. "We hope to demonstrate functionality of Internet 2 by the end of 1997 and demonstrate actuality by the middle of 1998." He says it will be three to five years before Internet 2 is available beyond the current Internet 2 university consortium.

In the meantime, people at U-M already are planning what they can do with access to Internet 2. Access will probably first be provided to those doing pilot projects that can demonstrate the potential of Internet 2.

"We intend to engage the U-M community in the identification and development of applications that demonstrate the abilities made possible by the increased bandwidth," Griffiths says.

"We need to do these things anyway. Access to Internet 2 will allow Michigan to continue to move in the direction we're already moving, but take the next step up."