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Hurricane Katrina Breaks Internet2 Link, But Performance Not Affected

The private, high-speed Internet2 network serving education and research institutions around the nation took a physical hit today as Hurricane Katrina began battering the Gulf Coast, but traffic speeds on the network remain largely unaffected for the time being (the black line in the link above indicates total loss of connectivity between the two cities).

Internet2 is run entirely over infrastructure supplied by Qwest Communications (with Cisco Systems providing the routers), which may have extensive problems as a result of this hurricane. I don't know yet because I'm still waiting to hear back from them.

This morning as Katrina came ashore, the hurricane knocked out the Internet2 link that connects the leg of the network between Atlanta and Houston, according to Doug Pearson, director of the Research and Education Networking -- Information Sharing and Analysis Center (REN-ISAC), which provides cyber-security services nationwide to colleges and universities that host high-performance computing projects and high-speed networks. Because Internet2 was designed to survive such disruptions by redirecting traffic via other routes, the outage has had little effect on the overall speed of the network, Pearson said.

"It could begin to have a noticeable effect if traffic levels [on Internet 2] rise to point where other routers are starting to have to pull a lot more of the load, if they start getting overwhelmed with traffic," Pearson said, adding that he doubts the research network will suffer much speed degradation from the isolated outage.

However, the true extent of the damage from Katrina won't likely be known for days, and the storm could pose a serious setback for the National LambdaRail, an ultra high-speed fiber-optic data network being created along roughly the same physical routes as Internet 2. Phase one of the LambdaRail project -- covering routes across the northern United States -- was completed last summer. Phase two -- connecting Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Salt Lake City and New York -- was slated to be completed in November 2005, but depending on the level of damage that the existing LambdaRail infrastructure sustains from Katrina, that deadline may have to be pushed back, Pearson said.

"Construction is probably going to be delayed because of Katrina, but we just don't know how much yet," Pearson said. "We'll have to get a read on how the facilities were affected once everything settles down. But it could be a substantial delay because the LambdaRail fiber cuts right across the coast through there."

Internet2 is used for a variety of research projects that require extensive Internet bandwidth and/or large number-crunching and simulation abilities. At the Argonne National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility in Illinois, researchers are using the network to develop next-generation videoconferencing systems. The network also allows facilities such as the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii to crunch massive amounts of astronomical data.

By Brian Krebs  |  August 29, 2005; 2:47 PM ET
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