The Abilene Project, the code name for the $500 million Internet 2 backbone connecting universities that will create advanced networking applications, went live Wednesday connecting 37 universities around the United States.
When the five-year effort is over, the goal is for Internet 2 to connect 140 universities around the country. Early participants agreed to kick in $50 million a year to fund the next-generation network.
Abilene, a project of the University Corp. for Advanced Internet Development, will serve as a testing ground for advanced applications including distance learning, tele-medicine and digital libraries. Several technology companies and institutions contributed equipment to the effort, including Qwest Communications, Cisco Systems Inc., Nortel Networks and Indiana University, where the network’s operations center is housed.
The new backbone spans more than 10,000 miles and operates at 2.4 gigabits per second — 45,000 times faster than a 56K modem. By the end of the year, project organizers hope to have 70 universities and research institutions connected to Internet 2.
Those involved with the project said it will begin to pay dividends immediately.
“The fact that the Abilene network is operational is of great significance to member universities whose faculty and researchers now have access to unsurpassed networking capabilities for teaching and research,” said Michael McRobbie, Indiana University’s vice president for information technology.
Douglas E. Van Houweling, president and chief executive office of UCAID, said the initiative’s corporate partners played a key role in the project which will benefit everyone.
“Just as the research networks of a decade ago produced technologies that have transformed the way we all work, learn and live today, Abilene will help develop the technology we will all use tommorrow,” he said.