One may read numerous studies on which organizations are using Internet2, and for what purpose. However, the answers to certain fundamental questions are more challenging to ascertain. For example, given that Internet2 has its own network, does that mean that only specific research-designated computers at a university are connected privately to the network? How does it really work?
During this research I discovered that my own school was using it as well. To find answers to the above questions, and more, I spoke with a member of the CMU network team to clarify how the technology functions in practical terms. I was surprised at how much more intuitive Internet2 is than I had imagined.
So, are the physical aspects any different?
Internet2’s physical infrastructure is no different than the commodity Internet’s; the network is built of fiber wires installed in pipes underground. These wires are co-mingled with other wires, such as the ones facilitating the commodity Internet. The main difference is that Internet2’s network (hyperlink) is less geographically extensive. Because it provides a more direct connection and an extremely high bandwidth over long distances, Internet2 is best at sending large quantities of data.
Is it automatic?
In short, yes. The Internet is a collection of service providers which utilize routers to connect different parts of the physical infrastructure to others. Sometimes these gatekeepers are commercial, like Google, and sometimes they are regional network providers.
So am I using Internet2 right now?
You easily could be if you’re on a campus with Internet2 access. When you visit a website like Youtube, you may be routing via Google’s network since the company is an industry member of Internet2. And if you’re sending a large data set to an institution with Internet2, it’s traveling along the Internet2 network.
How does CMU gain access?
The university gets its Internet2 access through a Pennsylvania-based research and education network called KINBER. Dark fiber providers provide the actual access to Internet2’s network.
What sort of network support is needed for LOLA?
As discussed in an AMT Lab post on Internet2 for music organizations, low latency audio and videoconferencing technology (LOLA), configured via Internet2’s Innovation platform, can facilitate lightning-speed streaming of master classes and performances, which can be a great resource for music education. LOLA allows musicians to connect across vast distances in real time due to its low latency which minimizes audio delay, its uncompressed audio stream which ensures professional-grade audio quality, and its high video standard (hyperlink – Farrell). Each party participating in a LOLA call must, in addition to being able to access Internet2, have rendering and encoding devices and audio and visual systems that meet minimum system requirements.
In summary, Internet2’s physical infrastructure is the same as the commodity Internet’s save that its network reaches less geographical locations. If you’re located on a campus with an Internet2 connection, you may be using it without your knowledge. If you want to facilitate a musical lesson or performance and both institutions have Internet2, LOLA’s technology can facilitate that from across the country or overseas as if you were in the same room. And what’s almost as remarkable? That it’s not as complicated as it seems.