University of Alaska sets Internet record

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- In the world of network engineering, winning the Internet2 Land Speed Record gets you noticed.

These days, people are noticing the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which currently holds the record for sending the equivalent of an hour-long music CD from Fairbanks to Amsterdam, Netherlands in just 13 seconds.

''It's a major deal,'' Steve Smith, chief technology officer for the University of Alaska System told the Alaska Journal of Commerce. ''Within the networking world, it lets people know the university and Alaska are players.''

Smith said he first heard about the Land Speed Record program at an Internet2 meeting a year ago. During the meeting, the first record was awarded to a group for sending data from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

Since the record rewards a combination of speed and distance, Smith decided, ''We might have a shot at this.''

He stood up at the meeting and announced that the University of Alaska would set the next record and invited other organizations to join in the attempt.

Several weeks after the meeting, Smith said he received an e-mail from his counterparts at the University of Amsterdam, who eventually agreed to take part.

At the University of Alaska, Kerry Digou, senior systems programmer, was chosen as team leader, with help from Ian Hegdal, manager of network engineering, and Ajay Nautiyal, senior systems programmer.

Smith said all three men kept their normal jobs and worked on the speed record project whenever they had time.

To win the record, contestants must use existing networks and off-the- shelf equipment. They also have to beat the previous record by at least 10 percent. The transmission must use standard Internet protocols.

Smith said the team used a standard Dell computer to send the data. ''We tweaked it, but they were tweaks anyone could make,'' he said. The computer was running the Linux operating system.

The key to setting the record was finding a path for the signal that used high-speed fiber optic lines. Smith said that the University of Alaska Fairbanks already had such a connection to Seattle. It's used to connect the university's supercomputers with researchers around the country.

At Seattle, the transmission was switched over to a national Internet2 backbone network called Abilene, which transported the information to Chicago. There, it linked up with the national research network of Netherlands, called SURFnet, which transported the signal to the East Coast and across the Atlantic to the University of Amsterdam.

Total distance of the link: 7,608 miles.

The record was set April 9.

''The actual record was set in the middle of the night,'' Smith said. ''The team picked a time when there wasn't much traffic.''

He said the team sent 620 megabytes of data, roughly the amount on a normal compact disc. Average speed of the connection was 401 million bits per second. That's more than 7,000 times faster than the typical 56k dial-up modem.

''We take particular pride in this because we have the top network engineers in the country working on this,'' Smith said. ''We're judged by our peers.'' He said Dijou will attend the next Internet2 meeting to pick up the award.

Smith expects the record to stand until next year, but he's not sitting still.

''What I'd like to try is to circle the globe -- to start here and end here,'' he said. ''So far, there are no takers, but I'm sure I will find them.''

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