High-speed networks make home in Illinois

December 10, 2001

Reprinted from the Chicago Tribune
By Jon Van, staff reporter

Chicago continues to lead the nation in hosting advanced high-speed data networks as two new ones were unveiled last week.

Networks that carry information at the rate of 10 gigabits, or 10 million bits a second, are the big thing now. One new 10-gig network is strictly local, a metropolitanwide network, called OMNInet, that connects Northwestern University campuses in Evanston and Chicago with the University of Illinois' Chicago campus and a point in downtown Chicago.

This is an all-optical network with switches that manipulate photons of light without converting the information to electrons, which happens in commercial networks.

Chicago is also home to StarLight, a global network developed by computer scientists at Illinois, Northwestern and Argonne National Laboratory. Running at 2.5 gigabits, researchers plan to rev it up to 10 gigabits and beyond soon.

These new networks join I-WIRE, the Illinois statewide fiber high-speed network and TeraGrid, the multisite supercomputing system set to start operations next year.

"Illinois is the center of the high-speed networking universe," said Joe Mambretti of Northwestern. "They may make wonderful boxes in Silicon Valley, but we're the ones who hook them together to do great things."

Bob Walters, an SBC/Ameritech executive, said that his firm benefits from working with local computer scientists on advanced networks by commercializing aspects of the test networks.

"Our vision is to build networks like this that connect to the public network," he said.

Copyright (c) 2001, Chicago Tribune

Last Updated: 18 February 2010