Portland-area Research Institutions to Build Onramp to Internet2 Network

09/14/99   Beaverton, Ore.

Three Portland-area higher education institutions have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a metropolitan area network and connect to the Internet2 via the Pacific Northwest gigaPoP in Seattle. This high-speed network will significantly enhance the region's research capability.

The new link, to be known as the Portland Metropolitan Area Network (PMAN), involves Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology (OGI) - a private education and research institution in Beaverton - and two public institutions, Portland State University (PSU) and Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). With assistance from the University of Washington, PMAN will connect to Internet2 and other universities nationwide via a very-high-speed link that was donated to the University of Washington by WCIC, Inc.

"The network will run at speeds up to two orders of magnitude faster than existing links, and represents a significant increase in both the quantity and quality of network communications between the three participating institutions," says David Steere, OGI assistant professor.

Internet2 is a consortium of universities working with government and industrial partners to build the next generation Internet infrastructure. Internet2 has deployed a very high speed network backbone, called Abilene, that connects gigaPoPs, or access points, located at various universities throughout the country.

"This Internet2 connection will allow Portland researchers to collaborate with researchers at other Internet2 sites in addition to collaborating with other Portland-based researchers," says Steere. Researchers already have plans to work with scientists from the University of Washington, Stanford University, the University of Pittsburgh and California Institute of Technology on a variety of projects across a range of disciplines.

The NSF award of $542,979 makes it possible for the project to move ahead. The rest of the $1.2 million project costs will be shared by the three institutions. "This award to connect to Internet2 is a recognition by NSF of the importance of Portland-area schools to the national research agenda," Steere says.

PSU President Daniel O. Bernstine, OGI President Ed Thompson and OHSU President Peter Kohler are highly supportive of the PMAN project. "Funding this proposal will provide a network infrastructure to support and extend research and educational collaborations among the participating institutions, as well as with smaller colleges and with industry partners in the region," says Bernstine.

Examples of how PMAN will be used include:
Portland State University

  • Dr. Rob Daasch, associate professor, is building a "Virtual Integrated Circuit Test Center" at PSU, with partners at the University of Washington, University of Texas, and California Institute of Technology as well as Credence Systems Corporation and other local high-technology companies. The Internet2 connection to the center will allow researchers from around the country to send and receive the large data files needed to test state-of-the-art integrated circuits and participate in joint research projects.

Oregon Health Sciences University

  • Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., director of the Congenital Heart Research Center, is developing techniques for building high-quality three-dimensional images of embryo hearts. These techniques can increase the amount of transmitted data tenfold. Internet2 access allows him to share these images in real-time with researchers in California and Washington, D.C.
  • William Hersh, M.D., associate professor and chief, Division of Medical Informatics and Outcomes Research, will use Internet2 to develop distance learning programs in medical informatics, the field concerned with the use of information technology in health care. Among the planned activities will be real-time sharing of faculty expertise at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Washington.

Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology

  • Ninian Blackburn, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, will conduct experiments in metallobiochemistry using equipment at Stanford University. Internet2 access enables the possibility of "co-laboratories," collaborative groups of scientists from geographically dispersed sites interacting closely on joint research. Collaboratories enable sharing of data in real time at each step of the collaborative process, from gene isolation and expression to sample preparation, data collection, analysis and interpretation of the results.
  • Jonathan Walpole, professor, Dylan McNamee, assistant professor, and David Steere, assistant professor - all of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering - are experimenting with techniques for sending high-1uality video streams over long distances. Internet2 provides a platform for experimenting with the transmission of broadcast-quality digital video over computer networks, allowing techniques developed in the lab to be tested in real-world scenarios.
  • Antonio Baptista, director of the Center for Coastal and Land-Margin Research, has built sensor network and physical model of the Columbia River estuary. The Internet2 connection will allow researchers around the country to access online field data and run model simulations. Known as CORIE, the lower Columbia River network is a pilot nowcast-forecast system that could become the prototype for a national marine forecasting center.

"We hope PMAN can grow to serve all educational and research institutions in the Portland area. And by working with other statewide educational networks such as NERO/OWEN, enable statewide collaboration such as the new Oregon Master of Software Engineering program," says Calton Pu, OGI professor and principal investigator for the NSF award. "Also, the presence of a single point of contact [at the Pittock Block] may spur Internet development in the downtown Portland area."

Technological Background
The Portland Metropolitan Area Network (PMAN) is a 155 million bits-per-second OC-3c network connecting the three main research institutions in the Portland metropolitan area. PMAN will connect to Internet2 via the Pacific Northwest gigaPoP in Seattle, using a 622Mbps OC-12c link. The high-speed network enables researchers to share access to sophisticated equipment located here in Portland or at other sites, and allows them to share data faster and with higher fidelity.

By establishing its hub at the Pittock Block, an emerging telecommunications "carrier hotel" in downtown Portland, PMAN enables the Portland area universities to deploy advanced networking capabilities rapidly and cost efficiently by exploiting the presence, both in the same building and nearby, of national and local fiber carriers, Internet Service Providers, and electronic commerce ventures. Similar opportunities for higher education have developed around other carrier hotels, such as the Westin Building in Seattle and the One Wilshire Building in Los Angeles.

OGI - David Moore, (503) 748-1192, or e-mail at david@admin.ogi.edu.

PSU - Cynthia A. Brown, Chair, Computer Science Department, (503) 725-8251 or e-mail at cbrown@cs.pdx.edu.

OHSU - William Hersh, M.D., (503) 494-4563 or e-mail at hersh@ohsu.edu.