Ohio and Michigan Establish Regional Optical Network Partnership

Jul 19, 2006

Columbus, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Mich. (July 19, 2006) – The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), and Merit Network, Inc. are pleased to announce a partnership to enhance regional optical networks in the Midwest.

This partnership between the two state research and education networks includes acquiring managed fiber from Toledo, Ohio, to Chicago, Illinois, as well as an agreement to jointly pursue fiber acquisition to the east of Ohio. In addition, the organizations will work to evolve Network Operations Center management to support Regional Optical Networks (RONs).

“The OSC-Merit partnership brings immense value to the table, resulting in far-reaching positive consequences beyond Ohio and Michigan,” said Pankaj Shah, director of OSC’s networking division.  “We predict that such partnerships can redesign the optical networking landscape for the entire region.”

"With this collaboration, we are now one step closer to achieving a RON reaching from Chicago to New York,” said Mary Eileen McLaughlin, Merit networking director.  “This network will provide greater network capacity and redundancy, as well as support advanced networking and computing for research and education.  This agreement truly illustrates the cooperative nature and long-term benefits of research and education networks.”

The partnership provides OSC with connectivity via owned fiber into Chicago, which has become a major crossroad for most national and international research and education networks (NREN). Merit will extend its connectivity into Pittsburgh, Pa., thus providing its constituents with direct high performance connectivity to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

The high performance regional network resulting from this partnership will seamlessly provide virtual resources to research and education communities in both states while interconnecting them with their peers around the globe.  For example, researchers in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula can now establish direct connections to OSC’s high performance computing resources in Columbus, while Ohio researchers can interconnect directly with national and international research networks at peering points in Chicago. Such connections previously required multiple interconnections on slower circuits. This often resulted in performance degradation, limiting cross-institution collaboration.

“The Ohio State University (OSU) is pleased to be working in collaboration with OSC to support this partnership alliance with Merit because it lays the foundation for a cost-effective, high performance regional network that is needed to support the requirements of a growing number of Ohio State researchers,” said Ilee Rhimes, OSU chief information officer.

Once completed, the fiber connections will enable use of advanced networking applications between educational institutions. For example, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, a world-renowned music academy in rural northern Michigan, will now be better able to provide virtual instruction to its students via high performance videoconferencing. Interlochen has long worked with the Cleveland Institute of Music to offer its students exposure to music instruction at the collegiate level. Previously, this required that students physically travel to Cleveland. Recent attempts to utilize videoconferencing for distance education have been complicated by connectivity issues.

With the high performance IP-based videoconferencing enabled by this network, students can now virtually attend master music classes from their northern Michigan campus, with all the benefits of personal, real-time coaching. This direct virtual connection will significantly enhance the highly developed videoconferencing musical training program at both institutions.

As networking becomes even more integral in education, direct controlled connections between educational institutions will become more important. The ability to control congestion and latency will be critical in supporting interactive video at the level necessary to sustain effective distance learning.

About OSC
OSC is a technology initiative of the Ohio Board of Regents. OSC serves Ohio by connecting high performance computing, the nation’s foremost state-of-the-art research network, and a deep pool of expertise dedicated to advancing research in the public and private sectors. OSC plays a key role in fueling Ohio’s emerging high tech economy by enabling front-line research, cutting-edge information technology, and new industrial growth. For more information about OSC, visit www.osc.edu.

About Merit
Merit Network Inc., a non-profit corporation governed by Michigan’s public universities, owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. Founded in 1966, Merit supports the high performance networking needs of Michigan’s universities, colleges, K-12 schools, libraries, state government, health care and other non-profit organizations. Through Merit, Michigan’s research and education organizations have access to leading-edge network research, state and national collaborations, and international peering connections. For more information, please visit www.merit.edu.

For further information contact:

Jennifer Hensley
Merit Network, Inc.

Kathryn Kelley
Ohio Supercomputer Center