Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
June 6, 1998                                     Sean Fulton
                                                 Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Rethinking Network Infrastructure

PITTSBURGH -- On June 1 at Carnegie Mellon University, William Decker, National Science Foundation program director for Advanced Network Infrastructure (ANI), spoke to an audience of over 100 network engineers from universities around the country about how advanced networking will offer new capabilities in support of university-based research and education.

Decker's remarks opened the second in a series of national meetings sponsored by NSF's National Laboratory for Applied Network Research (NLANR). The meetings, organized by NLANR's National Center for Network Engineering (NCNE) at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, provide in-depth information on using the very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS) to network engineers from current and future vBNS sites.

"This is a very exciting time," said Decker, "because we have bipartisan public support for the advancement of Internet technologies in initiatives such as the vBNS, Next Generation Internet and Internet2. The value of the people gathered at this meeting, supported by NLANR, is their ability to pull these initiatives together to build a new national network infrastructure."

Decker encouraged attendees to "raise the bar" on the definition of network infrastructure. The current network paradigm sees the network as simply a collection of switches, routers and fiber-optic cables connecting host computers. The future network infrastructure, says Decker, needs to be more intelligent. Differentiated services -- the specialized tasks of a more intelligent network -- will add functionality to the network that applications can use to get more reliable performance.

An example of differentiated services is quality of service (QoS). On the current Internet, every host connected to the network vies equally for bandwidth with every other host. This makes it impossible to run advanced applications that require reliable and predictable data transfer rates. QoS mechanisms on the vBNS are able to guarantee an application a certain amount bandwidth regardless of the amount of traffic over the network.

Differentiated services, such as QoS, were highlighted in educational sessions at the meeting. "Our goal," said NCNE director Gwendolyn Huntoon, "is to provide engineers at vBNS sites with technologies like QoS that will improve network performance enough that applications programmers can work with a reliable network."

NLANR, which began in 1995 as a collaboration among five NSF supercomputing centers, provides technical, engineering and traffic analysis support for the vBNS. Three component groups coordinate NLANR activities: The Distributed Applications Support Team (DAST) at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications provides user-application support, the Measurement and Operations Analysis Team (MOAT) at San Diego Supercomputer Center conducts performance and flow measurements, and NCNE at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center provides high-end engineering support.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Corp. It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.

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© Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC)
Revised: June 3, 1998

URL: http://www.psc.edu/publicinfo/vbns-decker_6-3-98.html