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Campus computer network to increase speed tenfold with upgrade

Sharita Forrest, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two projects under way at Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services will improve connection speeds for users of the University of Illinois computer network and will support bandwidth-intensive research initiatives.

CITES staff members are replacing the current network core equipment for UIUCnet, the computer network at the Urbana campus, with Foundry Network’s NetIron 40G family of products. Foundry Networks is a provider of high-performance computing components. The basis of the new network core platform will be six NetIron 40G IPV4/IPV6 10-gigabit service provider routers, each of which will support 1-gigabit-per-second connections to up to 200 buildings and 10-Gbps connections to six buildings.

The same type of equipment recently was used to set an Internet2 land-speed record of 167.4 petabit-meters per second, and maintained a 5.58-Gbps transfer rate over 30,000 kilometers of trans-oceanic fiber optic cable.

Since the current network core supports 1-Gbps connections, “the new network core will provide a 10-fold increase in network performance while improving capacity, manageability and reliability of UIUCnet,” said Charley Kline, campus network architect. “The 40G platform also supports network technologies, such as Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), which will be deployed in the near future to further advance the technology of the campus network.”

IPv6 and MPLS are Internet infrastructure components that are being developed to address problems related to routing, speed, quality-of-service management and traffic engineering faced by networks under the current infrastructure as a result of the exponential growth in the volume of Internet traffic and deployment of new technologies such as voice and multimedia services.

Although deployment of IPv6 and MPLS are a year or two away, the network core on UIUCnet will be in place to support those technologies when they are available, Kline said.

The new network core also will support high-speed access to research networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail. Internet2 is a research and development consortium consisting of more than 200 U.S. universities, including the UI, that are working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies. National Lambda Rail is a privately funded, advanced optical network developed by a consortium of private-sector companies and U.S. research universities, including the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium that includes the U. of I., the University of Chicago and the other members of the Big Ten Conference.

CITES staff members hope to have the new network core platform substantially in place over spring break, March 18 through March 26, with full implementation expected by the end of the spring semester. Network administrators in units throughout campus will be notified when their units are being switched to the new equipment, which will probably be done during weekends or early morning hours to minimize service disruptions. Researchers who use high-performance computing will probably be the first to notice the network’s improved speed.

CITES staff members also are planning the implementation of a fiber-optic ring that will link the three U. of I. campuses, facilitating connections in excess of 10 Gbps and improving access to resources such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail. Under a 20-year, $4.8 million agreement, the U. of I. will lease the fiber-optic technology from McLeodUSA and WilTel Communications. Pending approval of vendor contracts at the U. of I. Board of Trustees’ March meeting, CITES staff members hope to implement the dark-fiber ring in mid- to late summer, although it won’t be used for production until a few months later, said Mike Gardner, associate director at CITES.

The U. of I. Board of Trustees approved the purchases of the network core equipment and the lease for the dark-fiber ring at the board’s November meeting.