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'Dark Fiber' Expands Research Networking

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November 9, 2004

Uninterrupted connection to research organizations and facilities worldwide for Northwestern University and 11 partner universities will be enabled by the new Chicago Fiber Ring, a high-speed optical network consisting of three connected rings of “dark fiber” in downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Fiber Ring will connect 12 of the 13 Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) member schools to the nationwide optical facility belonging to the National LambdaRail consortium of research universities and technology companies seeking to provide its members with state-of-the-art, high-speed data transfer. CIC Chief Information Officers purchased the Fiber Ring to substantially enhance their networking capabilities.

“Dark fiber” refers to a fiber-optic cable network or infrastructure that is in place but unused. The purchase of dark fiber by CIC schools costs about $13.2 million less than if each school had purchased a smaller, but similar network on its own. A key intersection point for this fiber will be the StarLight facility, an advanced network exchange funded by the National Science Foundation and located on Northwestern’s Chicago campus.

“This fiber will give us exceptional access to facilities, services, and resources not otherwise possible, and allow us to participate in many science, engineering, and education projects, including national and international large-scale research projects,” said Joe Mambretti, director of the International Center for Advanced Internet Research (iCAIR), a branch of Northwestern University Information Technology. “With capabilities far beyond current capabilities, this new resource enhances Chicago’s reputation as a central exchange for advanced networking for higher education and research.”

In addition to Northwestern, participating members of the CIC purchase include the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, The Ohio State University, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

About StarLight:

StarLight is developed and managed by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago, iCAIR at Northwestern University, and the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory, in partnership with Canada’s CANARIE and Holland’s SURFnet. StarLight is made possible by major funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation to the University of Illinois at Chicago and Department of Energy funding to Argonne National Laboratory. StarLight is a service mark of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

About the CIC:

The CIC (www.cic.uiuc.edu), founded in 1958, is a consortium of 13 research universities that includes the 11 members of the Big Ten Athletic Conference and the University of Chicago. Once their networking needs are met, participating CIC universities have indicated a willingness to sell unused Chicago Fiber Ring bandwidth to other higher education or non-profit institutions.