FEATURES & COMMENTARY
Syracuse, N.Y. — Jerome Woody reports that Kamal Jabbour, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Syracuse University, typed a series of commands on his computer keyboard to demonstrate the speed of an Internet 2 connection.
He traced a packet of data travelling from his computer to a computer at the University of Oregon, which also has Internet 2, and another to a computer at Le Moyne College, a non-Internet 2 campus also located in Syracuse. When he finished seconds later, Jabbour concluded that it took less time to for the data to reach Oregon than Le Moyne.
Internet 2 is an advanced computer network used by a select group of institutions to conduct experiments. One of its uses is to transfer high resolution material. The Internet 2 network consists of 180 universities and various companies and government agencies nationwide, according to http://www.internet2.edu .
“It was created to support special research and education because the regular Internet was too slow and congested,” said Ben Ware, vice president of Research and Computing at Syracuse University.
Built entirely of high-speed fiber optic lines, the Internet 2 backbone can transfer data at speeds between 2.4 and 9.6 billion bits per second, according to http://www.webopedia.com . In comparison, T3, the standard backbone connection for most of the Internet, has a maximum transfer rate of 45 million bits per second, the site continued.
By using the regular Internet, for example, it takes about 17 seconds to transfer an entire audio CD over the Internet using a direct T3 connection. But with Internet 2, it takes around 300 thousandths of a second to download an audio CD of the same length. SU has been a member of the Internet 2 group since it was formed in 1996.
Jabbour is a dedicated runner who regularly races across the terrain of Central New York. He also weaves his love for speed into his work as the executive producer and chief engineer of Trackmeets.com. The Web site produces and hosts full media broadcasts of track and field and community events over the Internet.
“We call it ‘lens to laptop’, meaning that we do all the camera recording and commentary along with hosting the videos on our own servers,” Jabbour said. Trackmeets.com also encodes high resolution versions of the content for people who have access to high bandwidth networks like Internet 2.
Jabbour logged onto Trackmeets.com last week from his computer in his office in the Science and Technology building. He then clicked on a video feed of a track meet that his company covered. The bandwidth required for the feed was large, about one megabits per second.
But when he started to play the video, the computer monitor showed a smooth and continuous video of a female runner, her body crouched and tense as she anticipated the start of the race.
“Look at her hair,” Jabbour said, pointing to the individual strands of the runner’s loose hair. “That’s the incredible detail that we can get with this type of resolution feed – VHS-quality that would not be possible to access if you were using a connection lower than at T1.”
The use of Internet 2 is not limited to computer labs and research centers on campus. Rather, any computer connected to SU’s network, including those connected to ResNET, can connect to it as easily as to the regular Internet.
“I had a hunch that we had Internet 2 on campus, but did not know for sure until now,” said Jim Whitehead, a senior computer science major. “I knew that we had a sophisticated network. I remember that (the SU network) was featured in an issue of ‘Network Computing’ magazine. The services we get form this network is well worth what we pay for ResNET.” SU students began using Internet 2 a year ago, Ware said.
“Whenever they connect to another Internet 2 university from the campus network, the way they are connecting to that university is through Internet 2,” Ware said. “You will find if you wanted to do any video conferencing with other students on another Internet 2 campus, that there will be a great increase in quality compared to (non-Internet 2) campuses.”
“The single biggest usage by students on Internet 2 is the exchange of MP3 files,” Ware added. “We found that people sending each other songs is where a good portion of the bandwidth is going.” Students using campus connections have automatic access to Internet 2, he said.
“There is no need to download special applications or to configure your computer,” Ware added. “Your regular e-mail programs, Web browsers and chat applications will use Internet 2 if the other party is from an Internet 2 campus.”
Internet 2 is an experimental network through which researchers test and develop new network technologies. “Internet 2 is still not as fast as it can be,” Jabbour said. “When you connect to other computers over Internet 2, it takes around seven milliseconds to access each network point along the way. The goal for the people who develop Internet 2 is to have that time down to two milliseconds.”
“Even SU’s connection to Internet 2 is limited,” he added. “The network connection within SU’s network is, at the most, 100 million bits per second and is around 10 million at some places. This creates a bottleneck because we can not fully tap into the full capacity of the network.” Jabbour added that he has heard of plans to create a one-gigabit network connection that may be available by late December.
Ware said that large computers such as supercomputers or mainframes will less likely do future research using Internet 2. “The emphasis of supercomputing research has been reduced because of the increased performance of PCs,” Ware said. “So most of the computers you will see in (High Performance Computing and Communications) labs are ones that you can buy in a computer store.”