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03/31/2003 - World Wide Packets, Cisco to Partner VP Net

The first equipment, from World Wide Packets and Cisco systems, is on its way to light the new Virtual Possibilities Network (VP Net). VP Net is an ambitious 200-mile dark fiber network recently donated by Avista Corp and Columbia Fiber Solutions to the educational institutions in the region.

According to Wayne Powel, Associate Academic Vice President at Gonzaga University and Chair of the VP Net Technology Committee, the process of selection of the underlying VP Net architecture and partnering network equipment vendors was a notable success. Six major network equipment companies participated in the selection and network design process--- described as a ‘Request for Partnership’ (RFP).

“The ingenuity that the vendors showed in crafting possible solutions to our networking dilemmas demonstrated real creativity --- and VP Technical committee members found themselves considering possibilities not previously considered,” Powel explains.

After the four-week RFP process was completed, World Wide Packets and Cisco Systems were selected on the combined basis of technical reasons and the companies’ additional desires to partner in an endeavor striving toward the long-term economic development of the Inland Northwest.

According to Powel, “Our committee discussions centered around performance with diverse traffic, manageability, cost, growth potential, the integration of layer 2 and layer 3 traffic management and support --- as well as the ability of the partner to appreciate and be supportive of the goals of the VP Net.”

The large new network, which extends along the I-90 corridor from the West Plains to Coeur d’Alene and for many miles north and south, is laid out in a ‘star topology.’ Just as all roads led to Rome in the days of Julius Caesar, today, all optical fiber leads to the US Bank Building in the heart of the Terabyte Triangle. So from that point, separate VP Net fiber lines stretch out toward various destinations. The first such line, VP Net phase 1, to be illuminated will be the one leading from US Bank building to SIRTI to Gonzaga to Whitworth.

The VP Net first phase development will follow an architectural plan based on the lower three levels of the famous seven-layer OSI model for computer networks. At the bottom layer, (layer 1, the ‘physical layer’) Coarse Wave Division Multiplexing (CWDM) will allow each separate fiber line to carry more than eight channels of gigabit Ethernet. This allows each member institution to have more than one gigabit of bandwidth on VP Net.

At the next layer up, (layer 2, the ‘data link layer’), World Wide Packets equipment will carry the bits and bytes along their way, allowing simplified network management, bandwidth management, and virtual local area networks (VLANs) that will help keep VP Net projects from interfering with one another.

At the next layer, (layer 3, the ‘network layer’) central traffic management will take place using Cisco equipment in the network core to do routing and also handle connections with other networks. VP Net aspires eventually to connect to several advanced nets currently in operation, including Internet2.

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