Friday, September 16, 2011

US Ignite -- can the US develop innovative applications for the coming gigabit network?

In 1986, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) linked a few universities, creating a national network. The initial 56k bps links shown here were soon upgraded to T1s, and people began using applications like email, file transfer and threaded discussion..

As networks spread and increased in speed, new applications were invented. The majority of those applications were developed in the US, because we had more people using state of the art networks than other nations. Most international traffic came to the NSF backbone, where it was terminated or passed through to another nation.

But our infrastructure and connectivity lead has eroded, leaving us a typical developed nation, no longer outstanding. Nations with wide spread high-speed networks are likely to develop applications for the future.

Is there a way for us to regain momentum as we enter the gigabit era? Some US universities and cities and companies like Google have already moved in that direction. Universities are experimenting with high-speed networks and Google is connecting a few cities, but, can those efforts be connected and scaled up?

NSF hopes so. They want to connect the experimental gigabit networks at various universities and cities together to create a large enough user base to justify and spur application innovation.

The USIgnite effort is just getting off the ground -- they are now soliciting white papers and will soon hold a workshop.

For a discussion of US Ignite, check this post on Google Plus.