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Internet 2

Brazil on the web

Agreement connects researchers to NSF at a high-speed

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the main research development agency in the United States, approved the connection of the ANSP (Academic Network at São Paulo) network, created by FAPESP, to the high-speed network known as Internet 2. Through this exclusive channel, operating at a speed of 155 megabits a second, researchers in the approximately 100 research institutes in the State of São Paulo will be able to connect with researchers in 180 American institutions and universities, to exchange information in real time, with high text, image and voice resolution. At present, common Internet connections are made at a speed of 12 megabits. The announcement of the agreement with the NSF was made on January 4 at the Palácio dos Bandeirantes.

“Internet 2 is the communication beltway”, compared José Fernando Perez, FAPESP’s scientific director to the project that is currently being developed that plans highways around the city of São Paulo. The access passport to this high-speed network run by the NSF was the SinBiota project, an environmental information system which integrates the broader São Paulo State biodiversity mapping and analyzing project  – Biota/FAPESP. The SinBiota data will be  available, through the Internet 2, to American researchers taking part in the Species Analyst project, part of the information network on biodiversity in North America, and vice versa.

But besides the Biota, there is also the prospect of integrating, also through this high-speed network, several other projects such as the research of  the Human Cancer Genome project with that of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has as goal the sequencing human genes; also the project of analyzing the genes of the variety of the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium attacking grapevines in California, developed jointly with the US Department of Agriculture; and the research to decode the DNA of two strains of the Xylella that attack the almond tree and an decoration plant known as the oleander, undertaken in partnership with Joint Genome Institute (JGI).

Connection to the Internet 2 network is done through optical fiber cables between São Paulo and Chicago – the only spot  where all the worldwide networks meet – which will enable FAPESP to plan new bilateral agreement to interconnect São Paulo research centers to institutions in Europe and Asia too. “Soon, we will be talking to the rest of the world at the same time”, forecasts Perez.

The normal Internet makes no distinction as to the information carried on the network: e-mails, images, sound and texts are packed and transmitted together, with no privileges. “It is like a four-lane highway used equally by anyone”, compares Hartmut Glaser, director of the ANSP network. Internet 2, on the other hand, offers a differentiated service, separating in bands, the normal Internet on one channel from a direct point-to-point connection which is transmitting, for example, high quality images, sounds and conferences in real time on another. If this same information travels over a jammed channel, full of e-mails, the image will be distorted”, says Glaser. Broadband is one of the conditions for operating this exclusive channel. And they are not the broadband services already available in the Brazilian market, operating at a speed of 256 kilobits. “We are talking about 155 megabits”, says Glaser. “Under these conditions, any application goes through”.

As soon as the interconnection tests are run, this high-speed and high-resolution channel  will enable American researchers to gain high quality access, in real time, to the collection of the SinBiota data – images, text and sound. Furthermore they will be able to interact with Brazilian scholars, also in real time, at pre-established times.

The Internet 2 may be used be used for telemedicine: surgery carried out at a hospital in São Paulo, for example, can be monitored and directed by a medical committee abroad. It will also be an important tool in meteorology, enabling a more accurate reading of satellite-transmitted images.

In the medium-term, the Internet 2 may be publicly available. It will be possible, for example, to watch films through an Internet channel, provided there are enough bands available to meet demand.

Meanwhile, the Internet 2 is a working tool for the academic community. In the United States, this high-speed channel is being implemented by a consortium bringing together 180 universities and 45 companies, the University Consortium for Advanced Internet Development (Ucaid), of which FAPESP is also now a part of .

FAPESP also has plans to start a high-speed network research project to develop new products, combining research institutes and companies. “The idea is to do a sort of genome project on the Internet”, says Perez.

In a project of this size, the Foundation expects to encourage research and development in this area of the Internet to raise the level of knowledge of the technology of network transmission in the State of São Paulo to international standards, by training qualified professionals in the fields of research, services, equipment, and applications. “What stimulates the program is the recognition by FAPESP of the enormous importance that the new information transmission technology perform and will perform in the future”, argues Perez.

One of the program’s strategies will be to encourage interchange between universities, companies and government agencies, in the search for better understanding of society’s needs in this sector, in order to expand the use of present resources, either through the use of funds or incentives for their development. “We expect to see new products and services developed, increasing our economic activity and reducing the need to import services and equipment”, states Perez.