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Virginia Research Universities Make the Leap to 100 Gigabits per Second

April 2015

Virginia universities that are members of the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance, Inc. (MARIA) are increasing campus connections to the Internet2 Network to 100 gigabits per second (100G).   This upgrade will deliver a tenfold increase in information-carrying capacity required to meet the rapidly advancing needs of high-performance, data intensive research and collaboration. The move puts participating Virginia universities among the best-connected institutions globally. Internet2 is the United States’ largest and fastest, globally connected research and education (R&E) network.

MARIA is a non-profit corporation that brings together Virginia’s major universities to facilitate access to shared technology infrastructure for research (cyberinfrastructure). MARIA members include the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University (ODU), University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech (VT). 

A group of MARIA members are partnering with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) to invest in an upgrade to the MBC network spanning the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The advanced technology required to deliver the needed 100G channels poses financial and technical challenges particularly for far flung areas outside the major metropolitan hubs.  The non-profit MBC, created in Virginia in 2004 to develop fiber optic infrastructure for revitalization of underserved communities, is well positioned to help meet these challenges and is a natural partner for MARIA with compatible missions for public service.   

The upgraded MBC network will deliver enormous initial capacity of 4 terabits per second (4Tbps), including 500 gigabits per second dedicated for MARIA research.  Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University will be the first MARIA members to implement 100G channels over the research allocation.  The new network will be operational by July 1, 2015.  

“By investing in an upgrade to MBC’s backbone network, participating MARIA members will gain the capacity they need and also enable MBC to deliver increased capacity statewide for our carrier customers and economic development purposes,” said Tad Deriso, President & CEO of MBC.  “It’s a win-win for Virginia research institutions and for rural communities in our region.” 

Other MARIA members, including George Mason University and the University of Virginia, are expected to connect at 100G over their own fiber optic networks in the coming months.  Old Dominion University’s connection through MBC will serve the College of William and Mary, Jefferson Lab, ODU’s Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), and other participants in the E-Lite metropolitan network operated by Old Dominion in the Hampton Roads region.  Radford University and the VT Carilion Research Institute will benefit from Virginia Tech’s 100G link.  The MBC network is designed to reach additional MARIA members including Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University in a phased approach. 

"Advanced cyberinfrastructure is critical to research at Virginia institutions,” said Rusty Waterfield, MARIA board chairman and chief information officer at Old Dominion University. “We can only develop this type of shared network service through the collaboration of our members.”

Scott Midkiff, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Virginia Tech expressed his appreciation for the partnership with MBC.  “Virginia Tech has had a very strong relationship with MBC for over a decade beginning with their founding. This joint investment with research universities serving as an anchor will yield competitive advantages both for Virginia research and for Virginia communities.”

The MARIA 100G connections will land at the Mid-Atlantic Research and Education Exchange (MREX) operated by Virginia Tech at a strategic location in Ashburn, Va.   The MREX provides an information exchange and shared access to Internet2, federal research networks, commodity Internet services, and content services serving as a regional hub for those activities.   The Internet2 Network co-locates a major global interconnection point at the MREX location in Ashburn. 

“The seven Virginia universities that are a part of MARIA are joining an elite set of universities that have direct 100G network connections,” said Rob Vietzke, vice president of network services at Internet2. “This capability will enable innovation on all of these campuses and also provides researchers with a major advantage when it comes to scalability, flexibility and programmability of the network they use for big data science collaborations. ”

MARIA 100G access is leveraging multiple federally funded programs. The MREX is already connected to the Internet2 Network through a 100G gateway funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure through a grant to Virginia Tech. MARIA members Virginia Tech and ODU working with MBC have expanded Virginia’s open access fiber optic network through funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  Virginia Tech and Old Dominion’s 100G links will utilize fiber constructed through the NTIA program.

About MARIA

The Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA) is an alliance of institutions in Virginia established to promote the development of shared advanced network and other cyberinfrastructure resources to serve the commonwealth and the Mid-Atlantic region.

MARIA promotes emerging technologies critical for research competitiveness and economic development and makes available high performance optical network services in support of the member’s research, education, health care and public service missions. MARIA is part of a national community of regional research optical networks providing connectivity to the national and international research and education networks.

MARIA members include the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech.  More information is available at http://www.marialliance.net

About MBC

Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, committed to bridging the digital divide, promoting economic development, reducing the burdens of government and reinvesting in our communities. MBC accomplishes this by operating an advanced open access fiber optic network, providing wholesale telecommunications transport services, colocation and tower leasing.  Since its inception in 2004 and by offering a state-of-the art fiber optic network, MBC has supported the recruitment of major investments to southern Virginia including data centers, call center/operations centers, advanced manufacturing, research and development, and bio-tech industries. For more information, visit www.mbc-va.com

About Internet2

Internet2® is a member-owned advanced technology community founded by the nation's leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 provides a collaborative environment for U.S. research and education organizations to solve common technology challenges, and to develop innovative solutions in support of their educational, research, and community service missions. Internet2 also operates the nation’s largest and fastest, coast-to-coast research and education network, in which the Network Operations Center is powered by Indiana University. Internet2 serves more than 90,000 community anchor institutions, 260 U.S. universities, 65 government agencies, 40 regional and state education networks, 85 leading corporations working with our community and more than 65 national research and education networking partners representing more than 100 countries. Internet2 offices are located in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Denver, Colo.; Emeryville, Calif.; Washington, D.C; and West Hartford, Conn. For more information, visit www.internet2.edu or follow @Internet2 on Twitter.





MARIA Awarded NSF CC-NIE Grant to Upgrade Connection to Internet2 to 100Gbps

October 2013 -

An award from the National Science Foundation will make it possible for Virginia’s research universities to achieve a vast acceleration in the flow of big data, to keep pace with the increasing demands of computational research and transformation in higher education.

The funded proposal was spearheaded by Virginia Tech with support from the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA), which brings together Virginia’s major research universities to facilitate access to shared cyberinfrastructure. 

Mark Gardner, network research manager for Information Technology at Virginia Tech, is the principal investigator for the project. 

Specifically, the funding will be used to eliminate a bottleneck at the Mid-Atlantic Research and Education Exchange (MREX), which is operated by Virginia Tech for use by all MARIA universities. The facility, which provides cost effective and efficient access to national and international research networks including Internet2, National Lambda Rail, the Energy Sciences Network, and others, is a point of network congestion due to shared connections that top out at 10 gigabits-per-second (Gbps). 

The new 100-Gbps infrastructure will have the capacity to deliver sustained data transfer rates that meet the needs of the most demanding computational research projects. Reviewers from the National Science Foundation commended the high return on investment afforded through this broad collaboration.

Steve Ellingson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, conducts astrophysics research using radio telescopes located in New Mexico. Currently, data generated by the telescopes must be placed on physical media and shipped to Blacksburg for analysis. 

“The increased capacity will make it possible to transfer data over the network instead of mailing disks,” said Ellingson. “This will create a dramatic acceleration in our search program and reduce the time between discoveries.”

This core infrastructure improvement will benefit nearly every science and engineering research project within the Commonwealth of Virginia over the coming years.  

While MARIA focuses on research and transformation in higher education, MREX also extends its services to Virginia’s K-12 schools, museums, libraries, smaller colleges and universities, hospital networks, public service providers, and private companies engaged in activities relating to research and education.

"Advanced cyberinfrastructure is critical to research at Virginia institutions,” noted Rusty Waterfield, MARIA board chairman and chief information officer at Old Dominion University. “We can only develop this type of shared network service through the collaboration of our members. I commend the researchers from several universities within MARIA who contributed the science use cases to demonstrate the strength of the research and broad collaboration taking place at our institutions."

In addition to Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University, the alliance includes the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Virginia.

Installation of the new equipment will be completed in the first quarter of 2014.



Ery Blythe Honored



At the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA) 2012 FALL Member Meeting Mike McPherson , Chairman of MARIA & Deputy Chief Information Officer at the University of Virginia presented Erv Bythe (former VP for Information Technology at Virginia Tech - retired) a certificate of appreciation for his long service to Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth of Virginia  and for his additional leadership at the national level in information technology and advanced networking.



[I2-NEWS] Virginia Universities Obtain Faster Connections to Internet2® Network


Virginia Universities Obtain Faster Connections to Internet2® Network

Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance Establishes Direct Connection
to Meet Big Data Needs of Scientific Researchers

Richmond, Va. and Ann Arbor, Mich.—(July 26, 2012)—Internet2® and Virginia’s
Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA) announced today that
universities throughout Virginia now have access to two, 5 Gigabit per second
(2x5G) direct Internet2 connections that will enhance university-based
researchers’ ability to collaborate on “Big Data” scientific research with
national and global counterparts. The initiative also aims to optimally
deliver support for advanced applications like remote instrumentation,
real-time video, next-generation distance learning, voice and other types of
collaboration applications for campus users.

The 2x5G connections to the Internet2 Network benefit all MARIA members: The
College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison
University, Old Dominion University, The University of Virginia, Virginia
Tech, and Virginia Commonwealth University. MARIA’s connections will also
provide access for Virginia community anchor institutions including K-20
schools, museums, and libraries through the NetworkVirginia Sponsored
Educational Group Participant program.

“The creation of the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA)
and establishment of MARIA’s direct 2x5G Internet2 connection will be
critical to efforts as diverse as UVA Professor Matthew Burtner’s 'Auksalaq:
A Telematic Opera,' UVa’s new Center for Chemistry of the Universe, and our
participation in important Internet2 NET+ Services,” said Michael R.
McPherson, associate vice president and deputy CIO, The University of
Virginia.

"MARIA represents the next cycle in the evolution of network infrastructure
to enable research and advanced services in Virginia and the region," said
Jeff Crowder, a member of the MARIA board and executive director for
strategic initiatives, Communications Network Services, at Virginia Tech.
"Inevitable technology-based transformations in research and education will
require continually improving reliability and performance of services and
increasing availability of optical and wireless networks. MARIA will focus on
development of research infrastructure in collaboration among our members and
with colleagues across the Internet2 community."

Additionally, MARIA in conjunction with the Mid Atlantic Crossroads (MAX)
will adopt Internet2 Innovation Platform technologies aiming to create a
regional environment for innovation in research and education. The
Innovation Platform is a set of disruptive technologies bundled in the
Internet2 Network that create the first open, national-scale production test
bed of revolutionary software-defined networking (SDN) and OpenFlow
standards, combined with the abundant bandwidth of the world’s first
transcontinental network deployment of 100G technology.

The Internet2 Network is the national high-performance network connecting
America’s colleges and universities to research and education collaborators
worldwide. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s
(NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) helped fund the
network upgrade to 100 Gigabit Ethernet technologies and 8.8 Terabit per
second capacity to support emerging bandwidth needs in research and
education. The network upgrade also enables advanced networking features for
more than 200,000 of the country’s essential community anchor institutions
including libraries, hospitals, K-12 schools, community colleges and public
safety organizations.

"We are delighted that universities throughout Virginia now have 2x5G direct
connections to the upgraded 100G Internet2 Network to support the Innovation
Platform participants and expand capabilities for the research and education
community," said Rob Vietzke, Internet2 vice president of network services.
"The new connections dramatically improve Virginia's ability to collaborate
with hundreds of similarly connected advanced research organizations across
the globe.”

About Internet2
Internet2® is a member-owned advanced technology community founded by the
nation's leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2® provides a
collaborative environment for U.S. research and education organizations to
solve common technology challenges, and to develop innovative solutions in
support of their educational, research and community service missions. Visit
www.Internet2.edu for more information.

About Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA), Inc.
The Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA), Inc., is dedicated
to facilitating access to advanced information, instruction, and research
infrastructure technology and advancing research and education in the United
States. MARIA is an independent Virginia nonstock corporation governed by its
members. For more information, contact us at
info@marialliance.net.

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