Penn plays active role in expansion of Internet2




Internet2 has become an even greater driving force in the internationalization of education at Penn within the past year.

In cooperation with industry, government and other academic institutions, Penn was instrumental in the initial development of Internet2, a second-generation project meant to extend the broadband capacities of the original Internet for high-end research and educational purposes.

Today, this specialized network is used all over the University to advance research projects and improve international cooperation through such applications as real-time, high-bandwidth videoconferencing, distance learning and intensive data transfer.

Penn is further immersed in Internet2 developments through its hosting of the Mid-Atlantic GigaPOP in Philadelphia for Internet2. The MAGPI hub acts as a main access point, aggregating network traffic from other educational institutions and high-end research facilities in the tri-state region, including Princeton University, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals and the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

This summer, the Franklin Institute joined the ranks of these subscribers. Initially created only for research purposes, Internet2 was opened up to museums and other like institutions in 2001.

"The Franklin Institute hopes to enable content delivery to K-12 organizations and to universities," said Jennifer MacDougall, outreach coordinator for the Institute of Cognitive Science at Penn.

"The connectivity possibilities in I2 are so exciting. There's been so much growth in museums, libraries getting connected."

Last year, the Internet2 network was used in a groundbreaking project by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Arts and Sciences. In collaboration with the China Education and Research Network, Penn faculty were able to interview Chinese graduate students in real-time, and assess their English proficiency before they came to campus.

This was only one example of such "peering" relationships being created by these efforts. Within the last month, Penn was able to open up additional dialogues with the Czech Republic and Russia for closer research interaction using Internet2.

Virtual classrooms have been long-time goals of technology in many educational networks. Recently, Penn researchers demonstrated their viability in experimental projects involving the Graduate School of Education and a training program in Dublin, Ireland. This program was also successful at The Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies at Penn and the University of Grenoble in France.

The University of Grenoble and Lauder Institute are looking to replicate the experience again this year, as is the School of Nursing, which is currently investigating the possibilities of distance learning.

Other programs that make use of Internet2 connectivity include the National Digital Mammography Archive, Wharton West -- Wharton's San Francisco campus -- and the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image.

Within the next six months, MAGPI will be upgrading to an OC-48 connection that promises a speed of 2.5 gigabytes per second.

"It is very much to Penn's credit that they support this initiative," MAGPI Director Greg Palmer said.

"Even though MAGPI only breaks even profit-wise, the University still supports us and is thus furthering the use of technology in education and research."

Also in the works is a project called the National LambdaRail, a next-generation national broadband network that could be the next step beyond Internet2. The NLR will be able to supply a 10-gigabyte-per-second pipe capacity to an individual user for a period of time -- especially useful for physics and astrology departments, whose modeling projects need increasingly larger amounts of bandwidth.

MAGPI is currently in talks with Penn, Princeton, Rutgers and the University of Delaware to extend support and funding for an NLR hub in Philadelphia.

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