When the word went out last year that a consortium of major
universities was forming to create the next generation of Internet
technology and applications, Florida A&M University did not
hesitate to join the initiative. Researchers at the nationally
acclaimed school engaged in molecular database development, atmospheric
physics calculations and other computing intensive research recognized
that an advanced Internet could smooth the way for their collaboration
with other researchers around the nation.
For Florida A&M, joining the prestigious Internet2 initiative
would fit neatly into the school’s ambitious research and institutional
agenda. It helped that administrators and faculty members there were
committed to upgrading the campus computing and network facilities. And
as a participant in the U.S. Army’s High Performance Computing
Consortium, Florida A&M had already begun developing its computer
networking capabilities to collaborate with other research universities.
“We’ve been committed to developing our computing resources for
several years now,” says Sterlin Adams, director of planning and
analysis at Florida A&M University.
In January 1997, Florida A&M officials agreed to spend at least
$500,000 a year to upgrade its campus computing facilities to meet
Internet2 requirements for joining the consortium as a charter member
In addition to committing $500,000 annually to its own computer network
upgrades, the school committed itself to connecting its campus network
to the national Internet2 system.
In roughly a year since the project’s announcement, Internet2
membership has grown to 112 institutions. Participating schools are
spending a total of $50 million annually to bring Internet2 to
fruition. Among the corporate partners participating in Internet2
development are IBM, 3COM, AT&T, and Sprint.
Quickening the Pace in Cyberspace
Today’s Internet is seen as too congested, too slow, and too
unstable for the type of applications envisioned by Internet2 member
schools. The new network is intended to enable a wide-ranging array of
broadband network applications, such as virtual reality, digital
libraries, and virtual laboratory collaborations. Internet2 is expected
to allow users to send and receive data as much as 100 times faster
than the current Internet.
Internet2, however, is not intended to replace the existing
Internet. It is making use of existing national networks, such as the
National Science Foundation’s very high speed Backbone Network Service
(vBNS), to facilitate connections among Internet2 member schools. High
speed national networks will be used to connect all Internet2
institutions to each other and to other research institutions.
Although Internet2 will not likely be opened up as a public network
in the way the original Internet was during the 1990s, its technologies
and applications will benefit today’s commercial Internet and its
future development. The current Internet evolved from a computer
network that was developed and used by university researchers in the
1960s and 1970s. The U.S. military largely funded its early development.
“Internet2 efforts will facilitate the development of advanced,
network-based applications and network services. It will advance U.S.
leadership in research and higher education, catalyze partnerships with
governmental and private sector organizations, and encourage transfer
of technology from Internet2 to the rest of the Internet,” says Dr.
Douglas Van Houweling, the CEO and president of the Internet2 project.
Less than a year after Internet2’s official launch, Florida A&M
holds the distinction of being the only historically Black higher
education institution to belong to the consortium. Adams says the
school became strategically positioned to join the initiative only
after years of faculty and administrators using sponsored research
programs to help build a strong campus computing infrastructure and
acquiring experience with cutting-edge science research.
“We have a strong commitment to be a leading producer of African
American scientists and engineers. Having a campus with the most
advanced computing technology resources is a way of establishing
leadership,” Adams says.
Through its participation in the U.S. Army consortium, which is led
by the University of Minnesota, Florida A&M researchers are
conducting research that will benefit from being part of the high-speed
and broadband Internet2. In addition to its Internet2 commitment,
Florida A&M has been working with a consortium of Florida schools
to develop FloridaNet, a high performance statewide network for
research and education. Florida A&M is currently seeking grants
from the National Science Foundation to help fund its participation in
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