Smarter, Faster Internet II Sits on Front Burner
Texas colleges lead project
Source: Houston Chronicle, March 8, 1997
By Todd Ackerman
The University of Houston, Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine
are leading a
national effort to build a speedier, more sophisticated Internet.
The $500-million project, dubbed Internet II, is expected to feature virtual
reality and allow scientists to do everything from
practice brain surgery to run weather simulations to design better aircraft.
"This will deliver multimedia documents of image quality better than any
television," said Ken Kennedy, a Rice computer science
professor and co-chair of President Clinton's advisory committee on the network.
"It will transform the Internet from delivering
text documents with some graphics to high-definition, full-motion video."
Internet II is also expected to be a thousand times faster than today's Internet.
UH, Rice and Baylor, along with 10 other institutions, were granted the first
connections to five supercomputer centers last fall by
the National Science Foundation. The centers and linked institutions are
expected to form the backbone of Internet II.
The University of Texas-Austin last month applied to become part of the network.
By June, the NSF is expected to announce the next
slate of schools to win connections.
In all, more than 100 universities -- including Rice, UH and Baylor --have
banded to plan the effort, expected to take
three to five years before it is fully up and running. Like the original,
it is expected to move from universities to the private
sector to consumers.
Currently, Internet II is moving data for the 13 linked schools at 655 million
bits a second, compared with the 28,800 bits a
second that is the highest speed available to most Internet users. Internet
II is expected to reach data transfer speed of 2.2
trillion bits a second in a few years.
Some researchers had emphasized they need a next-generation Internet because
the mass commercialization of the existing one has made
it too congested to handle many of the huge computations they demand. It
can also be inefficient, sometimes bouncing e-mail around
the globe before it lands in a computer down the hall from where it was sent.
But Kennedy stressed it is the capabilities of Internet II that make it most
"exciting." Those capabilities include the
Rice-UH-Baylor coalition's plan to collaborate in visualizing molecular processes
using UH's virtual reality lab and UT's plan to
use the same lab to visualize models they'll create of environmental problems
in Galveston Bay.
Kennedy acknowledged that Internet II will also likely become congested as
it is made available to the public. But, he added,
scientists will then build a yet more sophisticated one.
"Computer superhighways are no different from vehicle highways,"said Kennedy.
"They keep getting congested, no matter how many you
build. If we're successful at Internet II, its resulting congestion will
be a measure of that success.
Funding for Internet II includes Clinton's pledge of NSF funds of $100 million
a year for three years. Universities each chip in
$25,000 --as well as brainpower -- to join and some private interests have
promised to help sponsor the project.