UMass Amherst Receives $350,000 NSF Grant to Connect to High-Performance Computer Network

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts will receive $350,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will enable it to connect to NSF’s highly sophisticated computer network known as vBNS.

The vBNS, or very high performance Backbone Network Service, allows scientists and engineers across the country to collaborate and share powerful computing and information resources. The network’s large capacity allows scientists to collect and share massive amounts of data, to collaborate better across longer distances, and to run complex equipment from remote sites.

Connections to vBNS are evaluated by a peer review process and are approved based on an institution’s demonstrated need for high-speed communications to support its research activities. The latest grant awards, to 29 institutions and amounting to some $9 million, will bring the total number of institutions approved for connections to 92.

The University will receive the NSF funding over a period of two years to offset the cost of linking the campus with vBNS. Principal investigator for the grant is John Dubach, associate chancellor for the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) at UMass.

"This is an exciting addition to our campus network infrastructure that will support meritorious scientific research that requires high-performance networking," says Daniel Blanchard, director of networking systems and services for OIT. "The vBNS is a facility – like a laboratory or a supercomputer center – that will accelerate science in all disciplines as well as push the limits of networking technology and applications," says George Strawn, director of NSF’s advanced networking infrastructure and research division. Begun in 1995, the network represents an investment of $50 million in a five-year project with MCI Telecommunications Corp.

The network is a crucial player in President Clinton’s Next Generation Internet, the initiative to spur additional federal investment in Internet technology, and is the initial interconnect for Internet2 member institutions, which include UMass. Internet2 represents the next stage of Internet development in academia, the "next and much more highly sophisticated generation of the Internet," says Blanchard.

The vBNS currently runs at 622 million bits per second (Mbps) and is expected to operate at 2.4 gigabits per second (2,400 Mbps) by the year 2000. By comparison, the average home modem transmits 28,800 bits per second. The vBNS is expected to always be several steps ahead of commercially available networking.