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With heated global competition, the United States is in a marathon race to maintain an edge in fundamental areas of research and innovation. The National LambdaRail (NLR) initiative will provide critically needed high-speed network infrastructure for the next generation of research. Going beyond Internet and Internet2 technology, NLR will provide the resources for members across the nation to connect to a fiber optics network with supercomputing, storage and visualization capabilities suited to "big science" research.

NLR will provide a national fiber optic backbone linking research universities and laboratories at gigabit and higher speeds. The NLR initiative is a partnership formed by many leading research universities and corporate networking entities throughout the United States.

To create the NLR backbone, regional nodes will be positioned in major urban areas to form a trans-continental network. The regional nodes serve not only as a component of the NLR backbone but also as the regional access points to the NLR. In the mid-Atlantic region, Washington, D.C. is the major urban area. A node will be placed in the fiber carrier's regional access point in Northern Virginia to create the Washington NLR node.

Virginia's research universities have formed the Mid-Atlantic Terascale Partnership (MATP) to sponsor location of an NLR node in the area, to facilitate access to it, and to strengthen collaboration for combining computational resources and application support. Founding members of MATP include Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, the College of William and Mary, and associate member Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Membership is open to any public or private research institution in Virginia, Maryland or Washington D.C. The Virginia Tech Foundation, acting on behalf of MATP, is the NLR member representing Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. Each MATP participant will share a portion of the cost commitment made by the Foundation to ensure location of an NLR node in the Washington area and access by area institutions.

Additional Points on NLR/MATP:

- NLR will initially support four 10 gigabits/sec wavelengths. Additional wavelengths will be available to provide network transport for future specialized applications.

- NLR is legally constituted as a 501-C-3 by its member organizations. The estimated cost is $80 million for the first five years. Each regional node requires a $5 million fee, while the fiber lease is for 20 years.

- The MATP is a consortium, with each member paying an annual fee of approximately $100,000 per year for five years.

- In addition to providing support for NLR, MATP will provide a forum for cooperation among participating institutions to implement terascale research computational and communication infrastructure to support research requirements described in the Cyberinfrastructure report published by the National Science Foundation (http://www.cise.nsf.gov/evnt/reports/toc.htm).

- MATP will focus on finding ways to enhance research competitiveness for participating institutions while increasing computational capabilities and minimizing costs through collaboration.

- The Virginia Tech Foundation has appointed Erv Blythe, Vice President for Information Technology at Virginia Tech, to serve on the NLR, Inc. Board of Directors. Blythe has been extensively involved in the detailed planning and development of the NLR initiative. Prior to its creation, he wrote several key papers outlining the research and experimental mission and charter for the proposed organization, and he has been instrumental in its organizational development.

This article was posted on: September 16, 2003

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