University's Internet Connection Quadrupled

News Release

Fairbanks, Alaska - Access to the Internet for University of Alaska Fairbanks computer users more than quadrupled last week. The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center today announced expansion of access to a high speed computer network previously available only to some ARSC users. The new capacity became available April 7 to researchers, faculty, students and staff.

ARSC has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program and the Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) to allow this expanded use of the DREN. The agreement makes improved network access available as a temporary arrangement while new undersea cable is being laid and preparations are underway for an even higher speed connection next fall which was recently announced by the University of Washington and the University of Alaska.

"This expanded bandwidth provides an immediate speedup of data transmission for anyone who uses the Internet to connect with UA, whether coming in to Alaska or going Outside to the lower 48 and the rest of the world," said Frank Williams, UAF's Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services and Director of ARSC.

"It's been part of my vision for the university and for ARSC to improve network capacity to Alaska, and with these two initiatives we're making major progress in that direction," Williams said.

Internet connections between the UAF campus and the rest of the world have always hit a bottleneck between Alaska and the lower 48 states, said Jeff Harrison, ARSC Network Specialist.

"The bandwidth has been limited, which results in congestion and slower performance, particularly at certain times of the day when traffic on the network is high," Harrison said.

Internet traffic from K-12 schools and libraries which connect to the Internet through UAF will also benefit from the increased network speed, Harrison said. They will continue to use the existing internet link provided by Verio, UA's internet service provider, but the move to the DREN will free up bandwidth on that link.

"Having all the research traffic run on the DREN means less wait time and accelerated transfer of large data files. That frees up space on the network so everyone can get their work done faster," Harrison said.

Response from ARSC users was immediate.

"THANK YOU for the upgraded connections!!!!! What a difference!!!" said ARSC user Don Morton of Missoula, Montana, in an e-mail the day after the upgrade.

An Associate Professor in the Computer Sciences Department at the University of Montana, Morton is working on developing models for fluid flow problems as part of a National Science Foundation grant. He has been an ARSC user for several years, but has been accessing the ARSC supercomputers via the commodity internet.

"Only problem is, now I don't have enough time to go and fetch a cup of coffee between keystrokes," he joked.

The Defense Research and Engineering Network is intended to support scientists and engineers conducting research at universities, industry sites, test centers and defense laboratories for the High Performance Computing Modernization Program. ARSC provides computing resources for the HPCMP in addition to the support it provides for the University of Alaska.

The DREN telecommunications link was originally installed in 1996 to meet the needs of ARSC researchers who reside outside Alaska as well as those of local users who require access to data and computers elsewhere. The original single T1 link of 1.54 megabits per second (Mbs) was expanded to more than six T1s (9Mbs) in 1998. Now, when combined with UA's existing Wide Area Network link, other university users can also benefit from this additional capacity.

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