Massive bandwidth may not be readily available to the average company, but ...

Imagine not having to worry about bandwidth. Imagine that you didn't have to concern yourself with the usual nightmares of wide-area networking, like poorly designed carrier networks that choke the performance out of your mission- critical transmissions. Imagine you could guarantee every user in your company the bandwidth they needed, anywhere in the country. Imagine there was so little latency that you didn't have to worry that a large file transfer would choke your company's pipes. What kinds of strategic applications would you be able to build?

Welcome to the world of advanced networking. This kind of capability not only exists today, it's already in production, connecting hundreds of sites nationwide. Remember Internet2? It was originally a collection of universities attempting to push the envelope for networking to see how a variety of communications problems could be overcome. Not only is it still around, but it's connecting more than 200 U.S. colleges, government sites—and now, corporations. Conspicuous Consumption

Today, that network, known as Abilene, is a proving ground for high-bandwidth technologies. And we mean really high: A 2.5 gigabit-per-second cross-country backbone is being upgraded to 10 gigabits per second, with the goal of offering 100 megabits per second of fast-turnaround connectivity between every Abilene-connected desktop. The premise is simple: Make the network invisible so you can focus on other issues, like making applications actually work without bandwidth penalties. "If you get a sufficiently large quantitative leap in performance," says Greg Wood, communications director at Internet2, "you get to do your work in a qualitatively different way." John Jamison, a consulting engineer for research and education at Juniper Networks, agrees: "It's not just, 'What can I do with high bandwidth?' It's, 'What's possible when lots of people get high bandwidth?' "

A number of brand-name corporations— The Boeing Co., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson—are getting into the act as well, leveraging Internet2's fiber backbone for strategic research and development. Though many of these efforts are still focused on traditional R&D, it won't be long before a number of these bleeding-edge capabilities trickle down to the average company, supporting a range of business applications.

Ask Your Network Architect:

Which services we offer today are limited by the bandwidth we have available?

Ask Your Network Gurus:

What technical limitations are we dealing with internally that keep us from leveraging greater bandwidth between our offices?

Ask Your Vendors:

How ready is our current networking equipment for high-bandwidth wide-area connections?

This article was originally published on 01-01-2003
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