Nov. 24, 1998 The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded eight grants worth roughly $6 million to support research that will make the Internet of the future a faster, more reliable, more flexible and more secure communications medium.
The grants, made as part of the Clinton Administration's Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, will support research into such problems as: how to make the global computer network carry far more information at vastly higher rates of speed; how to control 'gridlock' on the World Wide Web; and how to create secure "intelligent agents," software tools that could not only search for information independently, but, more importantly, keep what they find confidential.
George Strawn, director of NSF's Division of Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research, noted that with this round of grants, NSF moves into a new phase of support for advanced Internet research. The division currently funds university connections to the very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS) to widen access to high-speed Internet service in university research.
Some of the new NSF grants will support research into powerful new hardware and software that will make the Internet capable of sending huge amounts of data at very high speeds.
Research on one project at the University of California at San Diego, will develop a prototype network that uses using optical fibers to send information at rates as high as one terabit per second. A terabit is one trillion "bits" of information. By comparison, a high-speed home computer modem typically handles less than 50,000 bits per second. At Stanford University, scientists in a second project will attempt to develop a router -- a computer that insures that information is sent to the correct destination -- fast enough to handle such traffic reliably.
"You've got to attack both problems at once or it's possible that you might create more bottlenecks than you solve," Strawn noted.
In a third project at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, researchers will develop a general theory for controlling congestion on high-speed networks. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, meanwhile, hope to rework the software that was largely developed ad hoc to allow computers to communicate on the Web to make it more reliable.
NGI is a multi-agency, federal research and development program that aims to advance networking technologies and new applications through: support for enhanced networking research; deployment of national testbed networks that are 100 to 1,000 times faster than existing technologies; and research into scientific applications of high-performance computing.
The NSF-supported research also is expected to make the Internet more flexible by allowing future users to reliably connect to the network from mobile computers wherever they happen to be. Several projects will allow users to connect to the net not only through existing technologies, such as desktop computers and supercomputers, but through wireless networks.
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