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Virginia Research Universities Make the Leap to 100 Gigabits Per Second

Posted on Apr 21, 2015 by Angela Stark
Tags: Higher Education,Advanced Networking,Applied Research,Internet2 Member,Internet2 Network,Frontpage News

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 21, 2015 – Virginia universities that are members of the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance, Inc. (MARIA) are increasing campus connections to the Internet2 Network to 100 gigabits per second (100G).

This upgrade will deliver a tenfold increase in information-carrying capacity required to meet the rapidly advancing needs of high-performance, data intensive research and collaboration. The move puts participating Virginia universities among the best-connected institutions globally. Internet2 is the United States’ largest and fastest globally connected research and education network.

MARIA is a non-profit corporation that brings together Virginia’s major universities to facilitate access to shared technology infrastructure for research (cyberinfrastructure). MARIA members include the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

A group of MARIA members are partnering with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) to invest in an upgrade to the MBC network spanning the Commonwealth of Virginia. The advanced technology required to deliver the needed 100G channels poses financial and technical challenges particularly for far flung areas outside the major metropolitan hubs.

The non-profit MBC, created in Virginia in 2004 to develop fiber optic infrastructure for revitalization of underserved communities, is positioned to help meet these challenges and is a natural partner for MARIA with compatible missions for public service.

The upgraded MBC network will deliver enormous initial capacity of 4 terabits per second (4 Tbps), including 500 gigabits per second dedicated for MARIA research.

Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University will be the first MARIA members to implement 100G channels over the research allocation. The new network will be operational by July 1. 

“By investing in an upgrade to MBC’s backbone network, participating MARIA members will gain the capacity they need and also enable MBC to deliver increased capacity statewide for our carrier customers and economic development purposes,” said Tad Deriso, president and CEO of MBC. “It’s a win-win for Virginia research institutions and for rural communities in our region.”

Other MARIA members, including George Mason University and the University of Virginia, are expected to connect at 100G over their own fiber optic networks in the coming months. 

Old Dominion University’s connection through MBC will serve the College of William and Mary, Jefferson Lab, ODU’s Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), and other participants in the E-Lite metropolitan network operated by Old Dominion in the Hampton Roads region.

Radford University and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute will benefit from Virginia Tech’s 100G link. 

The MBC network is designed to reach additional MARIA members including Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University in a phased approach.

"Advanced cyberinfrastructure is critical to research at Virginia institutions,” said Rusty Waterfield, MARIA board chairman and chief information officer at Old Dominion University. “We can only develop this type of shared network service through the collaboration of our members.”

Scott Midkiff, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Virginia Tech expressed his appreciation for the partnership with MBC. “Virginia Tech has had a very strong relationship with MBC for over a decade beginning with their founding. This joint investment with research universities serving as an anchor will yield competitive advantages both for Virginia research and for Virginia communities.”

The MARIA 100G connections will land at the Mid-Atlantic Research and Education Exchange (MREX) operated by Virginia Tech at a strategic location in Ashburn, Va. The MREX provides an information exchange and shared access to Internet2, federal research networks, commodity Internet services, and content services serving as a regional hub for those activities. The Internet2 Network co-locates a major global interconnection point at the MREX location in Ashburn.

“The seven Virginia universities that are a part of MARIA are joining an elite set of universities that have direct 100G network connections,” said Rob Vietzke, vice president of network services at Internet2. “This capability will enable innovation on all of these campuses and also provides researchers with a major advantage when it comes to scalability, flexibility and programmability of the network they use for big data science collaborations.”

MARIA 100G access is leveraging multiple federally funded programs. The MREX is already connected to the Internet2 Network through a 100G gateway funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure through a grant to Virginia Tech. MARIA members Virginia Tech and Old Dominion, working with MBC, have expanded Virginia’s open access fiber optic network through funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Virginia Tech and Old Dominion’s 100G links will utilize fiber constructed through the NTIA program.

About MARIA
The Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA) is an alliance of institutions in Virginia established to promote the development of shared advanced network and other cyberinfrastructure resources to serve the commonwealth and the Mid-Atlantic region. MARIA promotes emerging technologies critical for research competitiveness and economic development and makes available high performance optical network services in support of the member’s research, education, health care and public service missions. MARIA is part of a national community of regional research optical networks providing connectivity to the national and international research and education networks.

About MBC
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, committed to bridging the digital divide, promoting economic development, reducing the burdens of government and reinvesting in our communities. MBC accomplishes this by operating an advanced open access fiber optic network, providing wholesale telecommunications transport services, colocation and tower leasing. Since its inception in 2004 and by offering a state-of-the art fiber optic network, MBC has supported the recruitment of major investments to southern Virginia including data centers, call center/operations centers, advanced manufacturing, research and development, and bio-tech industries. For more information, visit www.mbc-va.com.

About Internet2
Internet2® is a member-owned advanced technology community founded by the nation's leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 provides a collaborative environment for U.S. research and education organizations to solve common technology challenges, and to develop innovative solutions in support of their educational, research, and community service missions. Internet2 also operates the nation’s largest and fastest, coast-to-coast research and education network, in which the Network Operations Center is powered by Indiana University. Internet2 serves more than 90,000 community anchor institutions, 260 U.S. universities, 65 government agencies, 40 regional and state education networks, 85 leading corporations working with our community and more than 65 national research and education networking partners representing more than 100 countries. Internet2 offices are located in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Denver, Colo.; Emeryville, Calif.; Washington, D.C; and West Hartford, Conn. For more information, visit www.internet2.edu or follow @Internet2 on Twitter.

Media contacts:
Mark Owczarski, Virginia Tech, 540.231.5223 or maowczar@vt.edu
John Pastor, Virginia Tech, 540.231.5646 or jdpastor@vt.edu
Angela Stark, Internet2, 202.803.8996 or astark@internet2.edu