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New Internet2 CTO pushes multicast, IPv6

Former Fidelity exec looks forward to network research instead of redundancy

By , Network World
June 23, 2009 11:25 AM ET
Randy Frank

Network World - Next week, Randy Frank will take over as the new CTO of Internet2, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based consortium of 200 U.S. universities conducting advanced networking research. Frank joins Internet2 from Fidelity Investments, where he served as chief technologist for the financial services firm’s Center for Applied Technology. Before that corporate post, Frank ran high-performance computing centers and research networks for the University of Michigan and the University of Utah.

Now, Frank is looking forward to getting back into academia, where he can get involved with cutting-edge Internet research in such areas as dynamic provisioning of high-bandwidth circuits, distributed authentication schemes and IPv6, an upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol. Here are excerpts from Frank’s conversation with Network World national correspondent Carolyn Duffy Marsan about his plans at Internet2:

Why are you taking the job as CTO of Internet2?

My background prior to Fidelity was all in academia. I started my career there, and I enjoyed it. After 10 years at Fidelity Investments, I decided for a number of reasons that I like the academic environment better. One reason is that I like talking about what I’m doing. At Fidelity, it was an unusual case where we got permission to talk about what we were doing. My background is in being able to build experimental networks. I really wanted to get back to that kind of environment. At Fidelity, the pressure was on to keep the trains running on time and keep the production networks up.

What do you see as the significance of Internet2 here in the United States?

If one goes back to the history of the Internet and Arpanet, in the late `80s, it was an academic environment. The University of Utah was one of the four original Arpanet sites. In the `90s, as the commodity networks took over, it was time for the academic and research community to move on to something new. Internet2 was really driven by the fact that we still needed a network we could do experimentation with. I’ll give you a good example: multicast. IPv6 is another example. We needed a network where we could experiment with all the technologies that we’re no longer able to drive adoption on the commodity network. The campus and regional networks combined with Internet2 is the national fabric for pushing ahead with new directions in networking.

What is the position of Internet2 globally in comparison to large, well-funded research and education networks in Europe and China

Internet2 peers with leading organizations around the world in terms of building a worldwide research network. One example is our Dynamic Circuit Network (DCN), which is now establishing dedicated high-performance links by partnering with sister networks in Europe and Asia.

What new initiatives do you plan to launch at Internet2?

It’s a little premature to say, but there are a number of initiatives that are going to continue on at Internet2. I’m a strong proponent of multicasting. If one looks at the pressure on the commercial Internet being able to sustain video transmission, I think a lot of our experience with multicast is useful. We have a multicasting-enabled Internet2. We can send a single stream across the Internet and not replicate anything unnecessarily. Today on the public Internet, with the inauguration of Barack Obama, the network didn’t collapse but a lot of people had a less-than-great experience. Multicast is a technology that solves that problem brilliantly but is unavailable on the commercial Internet. It’s been the experience of Internet2 in taking these technologies like multicast and showing their validity.

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