IBM helps give Internet 2 next push forward

IBM yesterday took the first step toward launching the second major piece of the next-generation Internet by announcing the Internet 2 Distributed Storage Infrastructure (I2-DSI) initiative, designed to support advanced applications such as real-time broadcast and video.

The project will be led by the University of Tennessee's Innovative Computing Laboratory. The effort is considered to be a vital part of the Internet 2 project's effort to create network services to make collaborative research and distance learning more practical.

"Internet 2 is all about orders of magnitude, more speed, new standards that make it possible to prioritise the packets, and new applications that are not possible on the Internet, like doing remote MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), collaborative design, full-screen distributed learning," said John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology at IBM.

As part of this effort, researchers at the university will be exploring ways to deliver high-bandwidth content, such as video, over public networks including the Internet. This sort of research will help determine the best mix of networking and storage for delivering content as well as ensuring quality of service.

Part of I2-DSI is IBM's Web Cache Managers, a product the company made available last year. As deployed initially in the project, the product will have a capacity of 6 terabytes. They will be installed at high-performance backbone access points at the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Indiana University, and several others.

"The [university] will install it in six different locations so we can begin to experiment and prototype the distribution of large amounts of video content. It will become the basis for how to deploy this on the World Wide Web over the next few years," Patrick explained.

The goal of the project is to have demonstrable prototypes of applications by the end of this year that show the practical potential of the technology. Over the next three years the technology and applications will be "retrofitted" into the Internet, Patrick said.

"The Digital Storage Initiative is about getting prototyping underway to learn how it is going to work. It will tell us what sort of middleware is necessary to manage that kind of environment. The fact is, no one really knows because it has never been done," Patrick said.

As part of its grant, IBM is funding the equipment needed to develop testing of applications at the universities, a spokesman said.

The I2-DSI launch is the second main piece of Internet 2 to be delivered. The first was the high-speed fibre-optic backbone launched last September by University corporation for Advanced Internet Deployment (UCAID), called Abilene, which is now an operational network. The third piece is the upcoming Digital Video Initiative.

Patrick said the hope is that the prototyping work done at the University of Tennessee and the other selected universities would be available to be beta tested in commercial accounts by the end of this year's first half.

"We have some very large companies interested in this and we are in the process of identifying which companies should be involved," Patrick said.

The Internet 2 project is being lead by the UCAID, who are working in concert with the government and an array of private computer companies to develop network-based applications for education and eventually business.

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