NSF plans for NSFNET

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at net.bio.net
Tue Aug 24 20:03:27 EST 1993

This is from NSF's STISSERV service.


				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				kristoff at net.bio.net

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Type   : Press Release
Date   : July 26, 1993
File   : pr9362

Sean Kearns                                        July 26, 1993
(202) 357-9498                                     NSF PR 93-62


The NSFNET, an agent of pervasive changes in American academia over the last
five years, is due for major change itself.
The NSFNET provides the backbone computer network that links more than 1,000
universities and other research and education institutions to the
Internetand thus to each other.
With transmission capability of 45 million bits of data per second, the
backbone makes the connections over commercially leased lines by linking 19
sitescalled nodesthroughout the U.S. At these sites, mid-level or regional
networks are attached and thus interconnected. These regional networks, in
turn, reach out toand fromthousands of local networks at schools,
universities, libraries, research laboratories, government facilities, and
supporting commercial organizations. This web of computer conduits allows its
users to exchange electronic mail, avail themselves of massive computers, and
search libraries and databasesall at distant sites almost instantaneously.
Developed by the National Science Foundation in 1985, the NSFNET program
long ago outgrew its initial vision: to provide broadband access to NSF's
five supercomputing centers for researchers with data- or algorithm-intensive
projects. The

program now supports not only the expanding backbone services, but also
directory and information services, operations for regional networks, and
connections for universities.

The changes facing the network and its support services are mapped out in NSF's
recently released program solicitation (NSF 93-52) for continued development
of NSFNET and "support for the goals" of the National Research and Education
Network program.

According to Stephen Wolff, director of NSF's Division of Networking and
Communications Research and Infrastructure, "There is a difference between
the old NSFNET and the new NSFNET; but critical elements of the program will
be continuing, elements for which our support will remain steadfast or

For example, with a $12 million, five-year award last December the NSFNET
program established the InterNIC, a group of network information services
available to the entire Internet. (Through InterNIC cooperative agreements
with NSF, AT&T is developing information directoriesboth "white pages" and
"yellow pages," a "Directory of Directories" and other database services;
General Atomics is establishing a "reference desk," training classes,
coordination services and the "InfoScout," someone to uncover new resources
and innovative uses of the network for inclusion in a comprehensive database:
and Network Solutions is coordinating registration services.)

The InterNIC funding will remain steady, and funding for the connections
programwhich links up to 200 new institutions to the Internet each yearis
likely to increase, Wolff said.

NSFNET currently supports the regional networks two ways: by providing funds
to support their information services, the connection of institutions, and
other "intra-regional" operations; and by allowing regionals use of the
NSFNET backbone for "inter-regional" connectivity at no charge.

Under the new solicitation, the level of "intra-regional" support would
remain steady; meanwhile, NSF would change the way it provides
"inter-regional" support.

NSF expects to spend about $18 million a year over the next five years to
support NSFNET's next generation. The plan will foster a new architecture
(with "network access points" and a "routing arbiter") to facilitate the
connection between the regional networks, other private network providers,
and the academic community.  The new structure shifts government support for
inter-regional connectivity from a "top-down" to a "bottom-up" approach, said
Wolff. The change, he said, recognizes "the changing nature of the networking


"In 1987 you couldn't buy high-bandwidth Internet services," said Wolff.
"There were neither suppliers nor market.  So we commissioned a high-bandwidth
backbone; and, in the six and a half years since, a number of comparable
commercial services have arisencatalysed in part by the market generated by
the NSFNET backbone. So now we can give backbone funding to the regionals and
let them buy that connectivity from the suppliers of their choice."

Under the terms of the current solicitation, NSF's funding of backbone
services will be channeled through the regional networks, on a declining
schedule: 100 percent of current levels the first year, 75 percent the second,
and so on, to zero in the fifth year.  This worries some network users who
believe it may lead to drastically increased connectivity costs.

"This is a misconception that simply isn't supported by the numbers," Wolff
said. "The NSF currently spends about $600,000 or less per regional network
per year to provide backbone services. Since an average regional has about
150 or more attached client sites, that's an average of less than $4,000 per
site per year."

A typical college or university now pays the regional network of which it is
a client between $10,000 to $60,000 per year, depending on locale and grade
of service. Under NSF's plan to reduce funding to the regionals for backbone
services, a typical institution would, after an initial year of no change,
see these annual charges rise by less than $1,000 per year over the next four

"Moreover," said Wolff, "as usage increases, the commercial providers' cost
of transmission capacity on fiber optics and switches will continue to drop
as it has in the past. Thus, in what is becoming a very competitive market,
the price will keep going down."

NSF, he said, will continue its connections program, which has increasingly
fostered access to the Internet for thousands of colleges, universities, high
schools, libraries, and other public institutions. "We will also provide
support to the regionals where needs are identified," he said.

Agency officials also expect the NSFNET plan to set the stage for a major
leap forward toward the National Research and Education Network (NREN) program
envisioned by the U.S. government. With its deployment of the first very
high-speed backbone network (vBNS), the NSFNET program will pursueas it did
originallya cutting-edge experimental network to interconnect supercomputers
and other intensive research applications at a level of service not available

"This vBNS will be a physically separate network," said Wolff, "one to push
the parameters of high-speed networking without affecting general network



According to Melvyn Ciment, deputy assistant director for NSF's computer and
information science directorate, "The NSFNET enterprise has delivered us,
responsibly and quickly, to a point where the Internet is supporting a volume
and array of research, educational, and commercial services few would have
considered possible in such a short time.  We progressed from a
proof-of-concept, experimental network to a production network with commercial

Ciment said the NSF plan is to duplicate this success at the next level and
to encourage its adoption in the private sector. He said the next NSFNET
five-year phase, while supporting wide academic and public-agency access to
the Internet, will advance experimentation that is likely to foster another
evolutionary surge in networking capabilities.


A glossary of NSFNET terms and a budget overview are available to journalists.
To obtain them, call Sean Kearns at (202) 357-9498.

The National Science Foundation is an independent agency of the federal
government established in 1950 to promote and advance scientific progress in
the United States.  NSF accomplishes its mission primarily by competitively
awarding grants to educational institutions for research and education in the
sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

This and other information is available electronically on STIS, NSF's Science
and Technology Information System.  For more information about STIS contact
the Publications Section at (202) 357-7861 and request the "STIS Flyer," NSF
Publication #91-10, or send an E-mail message to stisinfo at nsf.gov (INTERNET)
or stisinfo at NSF (BITNET).

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