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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU to join high performance research network

A new connection to the National Science Foundation's very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS) in January 1999 will allow New Mexico State University researchers to access information and communicate with colleagues around the United States up to 60 times faster than currently possible. Connectivity for the rest of NMSU's faculty, staff and students will improve as well.

Those who have searched for information on the World Wide Web are familiar with how long it sometimes can take to download a Web page. Imagine a researcher trying to send thousands of times as much data over the same Internet. An NMSU astronomer researching the development and possible fate of the universe currently may wait seven hours to transfer a single, 0.5 Gigabyte set of data from a supercomputing center.

This is just one example of research at NMSU, a Carnegie Research I university, that stands to benefit from the new high-speed connection. Other projects could include research on computer language translation; parallel computing, which uses many computers together to solve complex problems; and the Apache Point Observatory, which is operated by NMSU for the Astrophysical Research Consortium. The consortium consists of NMSU and six other universities and research institutions, most of which are among the 74 universities already connected by the vBNS.

According to the projects' principal researchers, connecting to the high-speed network is crucial to NMSU's research efforts. "Large research projects are in many cases grinding to a halt because of the speed of the Internet," said Art Karshmer, head of NMSU's computer science department and vBNS project director. "Unless there is some relief, research at NMSU won't be able to compete."

However, connecting to the vBNS is no easy task, officials say, since the nearest connection point is in Denver. An NSF grant for about $350,000 over the next two years will help pay for the vBNS connection, but to save money the university will be teaming up with the University of New Mexico. UNM already is connected to the vBNS in Denver. Rather than create a new link all the way to Colorado, NMSU will connect to UNM, then the two universities will share the connection to Denver - and the cost.

The partnership with UNM allows NMSU to afford a faster link, said Norma Grijalva, who heads the networking section of Computing and Networking at NMSU. "By teaming up we can make our funding dollars work harder," she said. "Our goal is to achieve the best connectivity we can for the amount of money we have available."

The NSF grant will pay for NMSU's link to the vBNS, but upgrading internal connections to researchers' offices and labs must be covered by the university, she said. NMSU already has committed financial support to the project.

"We are very excited about this project because it fulfills a critical need for our researchers to rapidly transmit large amounts of data electronically," said William Conroy, NMSU president.

Not only will the high-speed link benefit NMSU researchers, but the university's regular Internet traffic may see an increase in speed as well. Once researchers begin transferring their large amounts of data over the vBNS network, some bandwidth may be freed up for other university applications, such as e-mail and normal Web access.

The vBNS is part of the federal Next Generation Internet initiative, and is a complementary step in the development of Internet2, of which NMSU also is a member. These initiatives are designed to provide U.S. researchers with the fastest and most reliable data communications to facilitate science, technology and research.

For more information, visit NMSU's vBNS Web site at http://www.nmsu.edu/~CandN/vbns/.