NCREN and NLR Research Collaboration

August 29, 2006

N.C. Universities and Economic Development Initiatives Benefit from Cisco Systems Contribution to Research and National LambdaRail Capabilities

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (Aug. 29, 2006) – North Carolina universities and other institutions now have new opportunities to advance research and collaborate with other researchers worldwide through National LambdaRail, a national network infrastructure connecting North Carolina's Research and Education Network (NCREN) to an international network research hub in Chicago called StarLight.

The StarLight global optical network hub at Northwestern University in Chicago is an international optical network connection point, developed and operated in partnership by Northwestern, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory.

A research project that has started to take advantage of these new opportunities is the Enlightened Computing project, a collaboration that includes N.C. State University, the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, MCNC, and the Cisco RTP campus.

The networking resources have been made available by Cisco Systems through an allocation grant to the Enlightened Computing research project. Cisco has granted use of a 10 gigabit-per-second network connection from Raleigh connecting through to Washington, Pittsburgh and terminating in Chicago, on its share of the National LambdaRail infrastructure.

Tracy Futhey, chair of NLR and chief information officer at Duke University, said expanding opportunities for N.C. researchers to work with researchers across the country will be a catalyst for innovation. "NLR views technology not simply as an infrastructure but as a gateway that can help provide faculty and students with new opportunities," she said.

Robert McMahan, State Science and Technology Advisor and Executive Director of the State Office of Science and Technology in the Department of Commerce, said that North Carolina's access to advanced networking resources gives us significant economic advantage. "Access to the nation's leading research networks helps North Carolina universities and research organizations attract strong faculty and increased national and international research funding," he said. "Opening doors to national and international research collaborations clearly accelerates discovery and innovation at our universities. This in turn drives economic development and further enhances the strength of our work force - both of which contribute to our state's global competitive position."

Advances in computing and network technologies are enabling new frontiers of research in many fields. Large-scale research projects typically involve teams of scientists and scientific equipment from multiple geographic locations. Networks linking multiple locations can enable the transfer of massive amounts of data, remote visualization of results and remote control of scientific equipment. The network infrastructure makes the research teams more efficient, and in some cases, is essential to accelerate scientific discovery.

The Enlightened Computing testbed is an example of this new breed of research network infrastructures in which an optical network is an integral part of the computational infrastructure and an example of international collaboration opportunities. In addition to North Carolina universities, Cisco, NLR and StarLight, the project includes Louisiana State University, the Southeastern Universities Research Association, the Naval Research Lab, IBM, AT&T Research, Calient Networks in addition to three international network research organizations.

"We are pleased to contribute to the cyberinfrastructure that is critical to progress in every field of science and engineering and the work that North Carolina universities are doing to accelerate this work," said Wayne Clark, senior technical leader for Cisco Systems.

Ron Vetter, a computer science professor at UNC Wilmington, said that his PhD dissertation was about optical networks, but he hasn't had the chance to implement the ideas in his dissertation, such as development of an all-optical database. "I thought I would never have access to this kind of network to work with. Now, I can try out my ideas in an actual network testbed," Vetter said. "This opportunity for leading-edge research helps schools like UNC Wilmington attract and retain high-quality faculty and train the next generation of students."

Kevin Jeffay, a computer science professor at UNC Chapel Hill, works with several groups that build tools to measure and monitor how networks are used, collecting information to enhance network security and management. "Having access to this network infrastructure is a huge opportunity for researchers in North Carolina," Jeffay said. "This gives us the opportunity to work with a new class of applications, use of networks to support research, and collaboration on an international scale to further our research."

John Crites, MCNC's chief executive officer, said MCNC built NCREN 20 years ago to advance research opportunity for all North Carolina universities. "The connection from NCREN to StarLight is an example of the research collaboration that keeps North Carolina and our universities on the leading edge of discovery," he said.

About MCNC

Since 1985, MCNC has developed and operated the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) in collaboration with the University of North Carolina's 16 campuses. The fiber-optic, private network is dedicated to research and education, providing a statewide network backbone to foster innovation. NCREN provides high-speed Internet, video, audio and data network services for North Carolina public universities, Duke University, Wake Forest University, other private universities and community colleges, state government and non-profit institutions. NCREN also provides access to national research networks. MCNC, founded in 1980 to be a catalyst for technology-based economic development throughout North Carolina, is located in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park. For more information, please visit

About National LambdaRail

National LambdaRail, Inc. (NLR) is a major initiative of U.S. research universities and private sector technology companies to provide a national scale infrastructure for research and experimentation in networking technologies and applications. NLR puts the control, the power and the promise of experimental network infrastructure in the hands of our nation's scientists and researchers. Visit for more information.


Scott Yates
Largemouth Communications (for MCNC)

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