March 10, 2000
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University has moved onto the express lane of the information superhighway, thanks to its new membership in a group of the nation's leading research universities that is focused on developing the next generation of Internet technology.
WMU was accepted last month as part of Internet2, a partnership involving research universities, industry and government that has been formed to develop the next generation of Internet technology and create a cutting-edge network for the national research community. The work will enable such applications as telemedicine, digital libraries and virtual laboratories that are not possible with the technology underlying today's Internet.
Founded in 1996 by 34 U.S. research universities, Internet2's members now include 170 universities. It is not a separate physical network, but a consortium that brings institutions and resources together to develop advanced Internet applications that eventually will be deployed globally on the Internet and used for both academic and commercial purposes. Membership will allow extensive collaboration between WMU researchers and those at other member universities.
"If our intent is to be a premier student-centered research institution, it makes perfect sense to become part of this prestigious group," says Viji Murali, WMU's new vice president for information technology and chief information officer. "The major benefit to membership in Internet2 is that it opens up a tremendous number of research funding opportunities for our faculty."
Murali, who spearheaded the drive for WMU's acceptance into Internet2, says there are a host of less tangible, but very real benefits associated with membership. They include the enhancement of the University's reputation and position in the national research community and the resulting ability to attract strong research faculty members.
There also will be, Murali notes, "additional benefits that we don't yet know about. There may be some wonderful new technologies that we can't even imagine yet, but we'll be part of that work and among the first to have access to it."
As part of its membership in Internet2, the University has committed to computing infrastructure investments that will allow the level of connection needed for the advanced Internet applications. As part of its membership application, the University had to outline its current research capabilities as well as the types of research it could undertake with Internet2 research capabilities.
Among the goals of the projects outlined were:
"These are projects that could not be done using conventional Internet technology," Murali says, "we are now in step with other research institutions. What we'd like to do next is position the University to take a step forward."
For faculty researchers and staff members, the most immediate impact will be a faster connection to other Internet2 sites.
"If faculty have been going to Internet2 sites and collaborating with colleagues at other universities," Murali says, "they'll discover they now have a much faster connection and they'll be able to exchange data faster."
Internet2 is focused on increasingly sophisticated applications that have been made possible by broad band technology developments. Murali says current Internet technology works well but is not up to the task of transferring the massive amounts of integrated data the new technology allows.
"The Internet is much like the trains of years ago," she says, "but Internet2 is much more like the Concorde."
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
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