Why research success might depend on a pipe dream

With an upgraded 100G connection to Internet2, research scientists at the University of Connecticut aim to remain competitive with colleagues at other R1 institutions.

internet2-research-universityIn January, the University of Connecticut upgraded its Internet2 connection from 10 gigabits per second to 100G. The connection, made possible through a partnership with the Connecticut Education Network and the state, is intended to keep the university on the cutting edge of research and better positioned to compete for grants and scientists.

“As you can imagine in today’s world of big data and research that depends upon large data sets, many schools are upgrading to 100G to accommodate their researchers’ needs,” said Paul Howell, chief cyberinfrastructure security officer for Internet2. “It’s becoming the normal type of connection for research communities.”

Today, about 280 major research universities are members of Internet2, along with approximately 45 regional networks that serve thousands of other educational organizations, including community colleges and libraries. It’s essentially a private high-capacity, high-speed network, allowing researchers to bypass the commodity internet where traffic can suffer from slowdowns and bottlenecks.

But the value of Internet2 is dependent to a certain extent on the capacity of a school’s connection to that network. Upgrading a connection from 10G to 100G is essentially like widening the on-ramp to a freeway: It allows more traffic to flow faster. Not surprisingly, the U. Conn upgrade is expected to be a boon for university departments, many of which are seeing rapid growth not only in the amount of data they handle but the compute cycles needed to analyze that data.

(Next page: Critical departments and their need for network capacity)