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Old Dominion Upgrading Internet Connections to 100G for Research and Collaboration

Old Dominion and other Virginia universities that comprise the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance, Inc. (MARIA) will increase 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 Old Dominion University and other participating Virginia universities among the best-connected institutions globally. Internet2 is the United States' largest and fastest globally connected research and education network.

MARIA is a non-profit corporation that brings together Virginia's major universities to facilitate access to shared technology infrastructure for research.

Old Dominion is joined in MARIA by Virginia Tech, the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.

"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."

Old Dominion and Virginia Tech will be the first MARIA members to implement 100G channels over the research allocation. The new network will be operational by July 1.

Old Dominion University's connection will serve the College of William and Mary, Jefferson Lab, Old Dominion's Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), and other participants in the E-Lite metropolitan network operated by Old Dominion, in partnership with Cox Communications.

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 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 initial capacity of 4 terabits per second (4Tbps), including 500 gigabits per second dedicated for MARIA research.

"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 and 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.

The MBC network is designed to reach additional MARIA members including Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University in a phased approach.

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 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 members Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech, 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). Old Dominion and Virginia Tech's 100G links will utilize fiber constructed through the NTIA program.

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