Internet2 is not, as yet, a commercial successor to the Internet. It has been running since October 1996 as a network between several United States universities, with links to European educational networks. The main aim has been to develop and test major systems, necessary to enhance the existing Internet. These include the new version of the Internet Protocol, called IPv6, and a couple of specific applications areas, such as digital video and distributed storage. Those are valuable areas in which present Internet performance needs to be enhanced if business use of the distributed, Internet-based systems is to develop fully.
Internet2 isn't the only project working on taking the Internet a step further. There is also a United States federal project, Next Generation Internet (NGI), described by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development as being complementary to Internet2, for which the UCAID consortium is responsible. Several universities, connected to the Internet2 Abilene backbone, are funding development work through grants from the US National Science Foundation. The Foundation has taken a keen interest in next-stage Internet projects.
The major Internet2 application focus is concentrated on areas, such as telemedicine, digital libraries and virtual laboratories, which are difficult or impossible to implement with use of existing Internet technology. Internet2 is not a single, separate network but joins up the network application and engineering development efforts of its members. By the end of 1999, over 140 US universities are due to be linked into the Abilene network via a high-speed Point of Presence, or GigaPoP. There are also links to other academic networks around the world, including the United Kingdom's Janet academic network.
Among the new technologies which are tested by Internet2, are IPv6, QBone, Digital Video Initiative (Internet2-DV) and Distributed Storage Initiative (DSI). IPv6 is profiled as the next version of the Internet Protocol and a successor to IPv4. QBone is managed by people of the Internet2 consortium who look at Quality of Service (QoS) issues. Last year, UCAID decided to concentrate the QBone work on the DiffServ architecture, which has been put forward by the Internet Engineering Task Force as sufficiently flexible and scalable to meet the complex needs of future Internet applications.
Technically, DiffServ has an interoperable design based on cloud-by-cloud, rather than hop-by-hop QoS. It standardises per-hop forwarding behaviours rather than specific services or queuing disciplines. Internet2-DV is a project to build a high-quality digital video network, with the initial aim of delivering specialized academic research information. In turn, the DSI strategy is based on server channels, or Internet Content Channels, which deliver replicated collections of files to end users. As a result, files are replicated over multiple domains and multiple servers, but a single URL is used to access a given file, regardless of the actual domain of the server called to service the request.
For more technical background with regard to the Internet2 project, we refer to the VMW article Abilene fibre optic backbone for the Internet2 officially switched on in the April 1999 issue. Recently, two advanced European research and education networks have been connected to Internet2. You can read the full story in the corresponding VMW article in this month's issue.