Hot on the Web
Lost in Cyberspace
Online San Diego
Feature Articles
Book Reviews and Reading Diary
Music Reviews
Favorite quotates
Contact Me

Lost in Cyberspace

Internet2 will bring benefits to consumers – eventually

This column was originally published on March 10, 1998 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

Just when we all finally get the Internet figured out (and, yes, that would qualify as sarcasm), here comes the Internet2.

As with most things technical these days, hype is far outstripping tangible facts when it comes to coverage of Internet2. Basic stuff, like what is Internet2 and what will it do and how might it affect your average Joe, quickly get lost in a jungle of jargon-laden phrases like "Internet2 will provide broadband (OC-3 level) (100 Mbps) Internet connectivity on an end to end basis."

If anything, there's even more of that technomumble on Web sites devoted to Internet2 than in the mainstream media.

So, a quick rundown on what Internet2 is (and thanks to Mike Gannis at the San Diego Supercomputer Center for his common-sense translations from the original geekonics):

The rapid growth of the current Internet, with something like 60 million users today, has made high-speed transfers of large files for research projects practically impossible. So Internet2 is being designed to do what Internet 1 used to do (and was originally designed to do): Allow researchers and teachers to use the world's most powerful computers from their existing locations, as well as use hypermedia presentations for remote teaching and research.

By keeping Internet2 reserved for academic research and teaching, developers hope to avoid the kinds of traffic slowdowns that now plague the regular Internet. However, President Clinton's proposed "next-generation Internet" for us common folk will benefit from and take advantage of many of the technological advances that I2 research comes up with – so we will all get some of the goodies (plus, removing the academic traffic from the existing Internet should speed up traffic there as well).

Probably the best starting point for learning more about Internet2 is at its home Web site: Spend a few minutes here and you'll quickly realize that the Internet2 project is as decentralized and chaotic as its predecessor. There is some background info here on their (About page), and contact names and numbers, but not much in the way of hard technical info. For that, you'll have to go to the individual universities' Web sites (they're linked from this site) since that's where the actual research is going on. (October 2000 update: The site now has loads of hard technical data, saving you the trouble of seeking it elsewhere.)

Another good site to get a broad overview of the future of the Internet2 – and high-speed networking in general – is the homesite of the vBNS+ project. The vBNS+ project is the very high performance Backbone Network Service from Worldcom that will serve as the initial backbone for I2. Right now, the embryonic vBNS is transmitting at 622 megabits per second, or roughly 100 times faster than the current Internet – planned improvements should push that into the neighborhood of 2.4 gigabits per second in the next few years.

Finally, IBM – one of the corporate backers of Internet2 – has a page that explains the project both in detail and common English; now that's rare, and worth visiting.