NSFNET backbone is in full production and on schedule

Washington, D.C. -- July 27, 1988 --A major new computer network takes its place in the national data communication scene today as the upgraded and expanded National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) backbone goes into full production.

"The NSFNET backbone is a major element in our national technical development," said William A. Wulf, NSF's assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). "With this in place, we expect that scientists and researchers will find new ways to work together on multi-disciplinary and cross-regional research projects."

The NSFNET backbone is the result of cooperative efforts by the National Science Foundation, MERIT, IBM, and MCI, as well as individuals at each of the supercomputer centers and mid-level networks. In operational testing since July 1, the new network marks its full-fledged independent status with the permanent shut-down of the older NSFNET today.

"We are proud of the performance of the new NSFNET backbone," said Eric Aupperle, director of the Merit Computer Network, the Michigan organization that has primary responsibility for managing the NSFNET backbone. "Many individuals have worked very hard over the past year to make the new network a reality, and this achievement was only possible because of the cooperative efforts of everyone involved."

Senior management from the organizations responsible for implementing the backbone explained operations today at a Capitol Hill press briefing sponsored by Rep. Doug Walgren, chair, and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of the House Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Technology, and Senator Donald Riegle, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space.

"The NSFNET backbone project is making it possible to test and implement the technologies needed to develop a national networking strategy," said IBM's Robert V. Mazza, director of development, Technical Computing Systems. "Through this effort, we are also showing the positive benefits of private industry, educational institutions, and government collaborating on a major research program."

The new backbone replaces an older, slower-speed NSFNET. In addition to providing access for more research organizations, the new backbone uses advanced technology to achieve higher speeds and greater reliability than the previous one. The new NSFNET backbone is based on T1 (1.5 Mbps) circuits, capable of transmitting the equivalent of 50 pages of single-spaced, typed text per second.

Establishment of the new network followed a solicitation for bids by NSF in June, 1987. MERIT, a consortium of eight state-supported universities in Michigan with 15 years of experience developing and managing their own state-wide network, was awarded the grant to re-engineer and manage the NSFNET backbone last November. The State of Michigan Strategic Fund contributed an additional $5 million in funding for the new network. IBM and MCI are providing direct services, architecture, and equipment needed to make the new network a reality.

"The development and implementation of NSFNET has offered MCI a challenging opportunity to work with IBM and other development team members on next-generation network technologies," said MCI's Lawrence J. Bouman, vice president of network engineering systems. "We're very pleased to contribute MCI's network technologies and expertise toward the successful launch of this important enterprise."

Day-to-day management of the network centers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the Merit central staff is headquartered. A new Network Operations Center in The University of Michigan Computing Center building is the focus of daily operations. Under the guidance of a primary staff of approximately 25 engineers, technicians, operators, and technical support specialists, the hardware and software comprising the network have been installed and tested over the past six months. A four-location research network has also been established for testing new technology before installing it on the production backbone. Through electronic messaging and conferencing, experts in networking technology from the entire nation participate in the research programs being developed for NSFNET.

Future plans for the network include increasing the speed to T3 (45 Mbps) and support for Open Systems Integrations (OSI) standards.

Governor James Blanchard of Michigan praised the work that had been done to bring up NSFNET.

"Putting the new NSFNET on line is a considerable professional and organizational accomplishment for Michigan and the nation," Blanchard wrote in a prepared statement. "It could only be achieved through the competence and commitment of the public-private team represented here today."