June 9, 1994
Vol. 13, No. 20

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    High-speed network to link U of C, Argonne, Fermilab

    A new high-speed computer network will soon link the University with Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The network, known as the Chicago Research and Education Network (CREN), will be operational for performance testing as early as the first week in July, according to Joe Mambretti, Acting Director of Academic Information Technologies (AIT).

    The network was developed in response to a key recommendation of the Report of the Committee on the University of Chicago/Argonne National Laboratory Relationship. This committee was established in 1992 by then-Provost Edward Laumann to enhance the research relationship between the University and Argonne. The committee, which was chaired by Robert Rosner, Professor and Chairman of Astronomy & Astrophysics, was composed of University faculty members and Argonne directors.

    CREN is being developed in partnership with Ameritech Advanced Data Services, which is providing the high-speed technology. A fiber-optic backbone ring connected to high-speed switches will link the three institutions, initially allowing data-transmission rates of 34 megabits per second. Current Ethernet capabilities are only 10 megabits per second.

    CREN will allow researchers to share data easily and to use computing facilities without traveling from one facility to another. For example, a researcher in high-energy physics working on the Tevatron accelerator at Fermilab will be able to transfer data via the network to computers at the University for processing and analysis.

    Maryellen Giger, Associate Professor in Radiology, will use the high-speed network to gain access to Argonne's computing facilities. Giger is developing software for the computer-aided analysis of X-rays and other radiological images. The computer software will give a "second opinion" to help radiologists find abnormalities they might otherwise miss.

    Access to the Argonne computers will greatly expedite the research, she said. "We'll be able to run 100 images at a time rather than one after another in sequence," Giger said. "We expect dramatically improved turnaround times in the testing of new methods."

    Other applications include digital video conferencing, high-performance computing, research in high-energy physics, and X-ray crystallography at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source.

    The whole academic community will benefit from CREN, because it will be an excellent tool for teaching as well as for research, Mambretti said. Students could have direct access to events happening at the national labs, including lectures and conferences, which could be "broadcast" on the network in real time. CREN also will open the gateway for collaborative possibilities.

    The initial installation will comprise 10 locations on campus that will be linked to both Argonne and Fermilab. On campus, the network is being developed by a project team that includes AIT and Networking, Telecommunications & Computing Services. Other universities in the Chicago area may be added to the network, and ultimately -- perhaps as soon as a year from now -- the network will be linked to a nationwide high-performance network.