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02/27/2009 - Five Routers to Missoula

The information superhighway trip from the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox to the University of Montana at Missoula is a long and circuitous one. Use of Internet2 reduces the number of “hops” to only five routers. From the Fox, the highway passes through the US Bank building to TierPoint in Liberty Lake. At TierPoint, the road joins the GigaPop to Seattle and the University of Washington. From Seattle, via the Abilene network, the journey end was at the University of Montana. The Abilene Network is the high-performance backbone network created by the Internet2 community.

The reason for the trip was the interactive Internet2 Composition Master Class conducted by Michael Daugherty, composer in residence for the Spokane Symphony, uniting composition students from Spokane’s area Universities and the University of Montana (UM). The master class was held in the Martin Woldson Theater because of the state-of-the-art technology and connectivity created when the Fox Theater was remodeled. The technology and the enrollment in Internet2 were to help facilitate music education. The master class was intended to both educate and to test the available technology.

Although the class was very successful, it did not go without a technology hitch. The opening connection featured about a five-second delay in transit time between Spokane and Missoula. The technical crew investigated to find the problem, and found it to be one of “convergence”. At UM, Internet2 packets and commodity Internet packets were merged into a single campus net. At about the time the master class was about to begin, classes let out at the UM. Free from class, students began logging on to the Internet, and although it was the commodity Internet, not Internet2, the surge of use slowed down the combined flow of information as it passed toward the edge router at the UM information center. As seems to often be the case, rebooting solved the problem. The delay was reduced from 5 seconds to only 12 milliseconds, with jitter of less than 20 milliseconds for video and none for audio – a very successful transmission.

Because many K-12 schools use Polycom equipment, that is the hardware/software system chosen for use in the Fox, according to Ted Brown, Information Systems and Data Manager. Their system is a Polycom HDX 9004, and its feed cameras are Sony EVI HD1. Remote cameras are Sony HD 1000, and feed into a TriCaster Studio for remote control. All sessions may be recorded on DVD for post-production.

“We’re doing innovative educational projects that no one has ever done before,” says Janet Napoles, Manger of Education Programs. “We are trying to collaborate with and serve the entire community.”

According to the Internet2 Web site: “Internet2 is a collaborative project by over 120 U.S. research universities, working with partners in industry and government to develop a new family of advanced applications to meet emerging academic requirements in research, teaching, and learning. Internet2 provides members a wide range of reliable services that serve as a platform for the most extreme research, development, and experimentation any community can imagine.”

Billie Moreland
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