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University of Iowa News Release


April 16, 2007

UI, Partner Universities Create Optical Network To Advance Research Worldwide

The University of Iowa -- in cooperation with Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota -- today announced the creation of a high-speed, regional optical network that will enable their researchers to better share data and collaborate on research activities with colleagues around the world.

Called the Broadband Optical Research, Education and Sciences Network (BOREAS-Net), the network consists of a ring of optical fiber cable and other equipment that allows the four universities to connect to national research and commercial networks based in Chicago and Kansas City. BOREAS-Net is 20,000 times faster than a typical home network connection and has the capability to become even faster, making possible high-definition video that will enable students to remotely use microscopes, instructors to teach in virtual classrooms and researchers to engage in many other projects.

"Providing this capability will benefit a wide spectrum of people and programs at the University of Iowa," says UI Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer Steve Fleagle. "With this new capability, we are among the leaders in the country with respect to network connectivity. I know the team is proud of being able to provide this to the campus."

UI researchers describing the benefits of BOREAS-Net include:

--Marc Armstrong, professor of geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), who says: "A network like BOREAS is a requirement for any research institution to remain competitive, since it supports collaborative, interdisciplinary work and provides low latency access to distributed high performance computing resources."

--Volkan Orhon, professor in the CLAS School of Music, who cites the ability to send and receive realistic high-definition video and realistic, better-than-CD quality surround sound. "A cellist and violinist at different locations will be able to practice a duet in "real time" with no more adjustment than they would make if sitting a few feet apart on stage," he says.

--Dr. Ramaswamy Subramanian, assistant dean for research in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, sees BOREAS-Net as addressing mandates from government agencies and playing a key role in UI medical research. "Recent nationwide NIH initiatives like the Clinical and Translational Science Award Program mandate national interaction between participating institutions," he says. "BOREAS-Net will provide the University critical bandwidth with which to share research data measured in gigabytes, and increasingly, terabytes."

--Karim Abdel-Malik, professor and director of the UI College of Engineering Center for Computer-Aided Design, sees BOREAS-Net as an essential part of his research. "Interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the cornerstones to the success the Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) group has enjoyed over the past 3.5 years.  VSR's continued success and growth will require partnering with experts at other universities, and the BOREAS-Net represents a key infrastructure component in the types of collaborative environments we need to develop."

--Yasar Onel, professor of physics and astronomy in CLAS, has been working to develop a national computation center for physics analysis with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest atom smasher. The LHC is a $6 billion project at the CERN particle physics laboratory, located on the border between France and Switzerland. In related work, Onel and his colleagues are constructing particle detectors, funded with more than $5 million from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and planned for use in the LHC. Onel says that BOREAS-Net "is an important step in connecting the UI to the international grid being built to process and analyze data generated at CERN, and without this connection it would not be possible to carry out LHC science on UI campus."

--Jun Ni, research scientist in ITS Research Services, says, "The optical network provides the fundamental facility for UI researchers and educators to access cross-institutional resources for 21st century academic computing. For my work with computational nanotechnology, BOREAS-Net provides an essential connection to the proposed Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computing, a multi-institutional projects based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois."

Fleagle says that the four universities have shared the cost of creating BOREAS-Net and that the network saves on costs by using what is called "dark fiber," unused optical fiber owned by telecommunications companies that was originally installed for other purposes. It also uses new, state-of-the-art networking electronics allowing each institution to manage their own bandwidth and maintain a greater degree of flexibility in supporting research and education services.

Says Steve Cawley, University of Minnesota vice president and chief information officer and chair of BOREAS-Net: "We hope that BOREAS-Net can provide a foundation for other institutions in the northern tier so we can jointly make progress on our primary goal -- to advance research in higher education."

Fleagle says, "The BOREAS-Net fulfills a need that we've known about for quite some time, but one that was too big for a single Midwestern university to address by itself. We are lucky to be located close to such willing and capable partners. The ability for all of us to work together towards a common goal is just as fulfilling as implementing the technology. I hope that this project will lay the foundation for additional cooperative technology projects between our universities."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,