Volume 52, No. 30
Internet2@Emory: How fast networks change research
Groucho Marx once said, "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." Like it or not, if you use an Internet-connected computer, you are a member of what is quickly becoming the world's least exclusive club: the Internet itself.
But now, in addition to your membership in the "commodity" Internet, you are, through your association with Emory, a member of the more elite group known as Internet2.
What is Internet2, and what is it supposed to do? What is Emory's interest? I2 is a consortium of more than 170 universities, including Emory, working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies. The purpose is to accelerate the creation of tomorrow's Internet, re-creating the partnership that fostered today's Internet in its infancy.
The primary goals of I2 are to create a high-performance network for the national research community, enable revolutionary Internet applications and ensure the rapid transfer of new network services and applications to the broader Internet community.
An interesting aspect of I2's conceptual framework is that we do not yet know exactly what results to expect from it. An underlying dogma informing the development of I2 is that there is circularity between advanced networks and advanced applications.
As network engineering creates ever-greater capacity and capability, researchers design progressively more demanding applications to take advantage of the new power of the network. As networked applications increase in complexity, power and utility, their requirements for speed, bandwidth and quality of service drive development of still greater network functionality. That dynamic relationship promises to deliver as yet unforeseen benefits.
Although we cannot know the full range of innovative possibilities that will result from I2, exciting--even amazing--applications have already been conceived and, in some cases, deployed. Examples include real-time collaboration using video and audio, remote control of instruments, interactive visualization of data, and sensory immersion in simulations.
At Emory, chemistry Professor Keiji Morokumo is using his I2 connection to remotely control simulations of chemical reactions running on a supercomputer at the University of Illinois. I2's increased bandwidth allows his research group to monitor the simulation in real time.
Also in chemistry, Luigi Marzilli's research group is collaborating with two groups at Virginia Tech in the molecular visualization, design and analysis of chemical agents thought to be involved in anti-cancer activity. Working remotely from their own offices and labs, the scientists will run computer programs to display and analyze molecular designs. They will also use "clearboard" software to mark on these displays and discuss their results via audio- and videoconferencing.
Lest anyone doubt the pace of technological change, the distinctiveness of I2 membership won't last long. Like the once-exclusive Internet before it, the high-performance network is destined to become incorporated into everyone's Next Generation Internet (NGI). This initiative is a multiagency federal research and development program that is developing advanced networking test-beds 100 to 1,000 times faster than today's Internet. In his 1998 State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton discussed NGI and asked Congress to step up funding for the initiative.
For more information on I2, the NGI and other related topics, visit the Emory I2 web page at www.emory.edu/ITD/RP/I2-VBNS/.
Rob Poh is technical analyst for the teaching and research team within ITD.