MirNET Project

Late last summer we submitted a $6.5 million proposal to the National Science Foundation and to the Russian Ministry of Science to establish a high performance "next generation Internet link" between US and Russian scientific communities. The proposal was submitted under the National Science Foundation's High Performance International Internet Services Program (HPIIS). We are currently awaiting the NSF's approval of of this five year project to establish a six megabit high performance Internet connection between Chicago (the StarTAP international switch) and Moscow. We have already received commitment from the Russian Ministry of Science to co-fund this with the National Science Foundation.

This link will give Russian researchers access to the U.S. vBNS (and other associated peer next generation networks) and US researchers access to top Russian networks and scholars. It is to support high performance applications only (no commodity Internet traffic).

This is a very exciting and highly visible project given its roots in the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission meeting last summer and their recommendation to establish the link. Our role in this project, after establishing the telecommunications link, is to manage/promote it, assist with applications development, and work to ensure that it is fully utilized. Over the course of the 5 year grant, we are expected to manage the growth of the link to 45-155Mpbs capacity. We believe there will be many good projects resulting from this new infrastructure and the new communications capabilities it will provide.

By the end of the five year project, it should be possible to accommodate many simultaneous classroom lectures (full-motion, compressed audio/video) between US and Russian classrooms, provide for many remote instrumentation/control laboratories, enable massive transit of data, 3-dimensional imaging applications, new data visualization capabilities, and, in general, establishment of new programs of joint US-Russian research and exchange.

This project is being developed by a consortium of several institutions. The Friends & Partners center in the US (the Center for International Networking Initiatives at the University of Tennessee with the Telecommunications and Network Services Division) is the lead institution in the US on the proposal to the NSF but the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is also involved through their several US/Russian linkage programs. In Russia, our Friends and Partners Foundation is working with the Moscow State University and the Russian Institute of Public Networking (RIPN) (responsible for coordinating many academic networking efforts across Russia). RIPN is the organization that secured the $500K annual commitment from the Russian Ministry for the MirNET link - essential as the NSF requires roughly equivalent cost share from both countries for this project.

The timeline for launching this project will be decided upon official award notification. We are hopeful that the MirNET link between Moscow and Chicago will be formally launched in late spring. The summer months will be used primarily for testing and preliminary applications development - but also for conducting a marketing effort to identify and communicate with US-Russia researchers already working together on projects which might benefit from the new capabilities. By fall of 1998, we hope to be fully operational and, by early 1999, seeking to increase the capacity from its beginning point of 6 Mbps - to a second stage of 10 Mbps. Over the course of the 5 year project, we must manage the growth of the link to full DS3/OC3 capacity (45 and then 155Mpbs) and arrange financing to pay the associated costs for increasing this capacity.

We have produced a suggested list of the institutions in the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas which are targeted for initial use of the Russian portion of the link. In the U.S. all academic institutions with access to the vBNS will be able to use the MirNET link.

While Russia's current fiber infrastructure will permit researchers in Moscow and St. Petersburg regions to utilize MirNET initially, it is our plan to expand access to this capability as the project grows. Indeed, through our work with the Russian Civic Networking Program, we are working to establish relationships with academic institutions across Russia and will try to build on these relationships to provide access to MirNET.

We chose the title "MirNET" for this project reflecting the three distinct but closely related meanings of the Russian word Mir. It has common and simultaneous meaning in late 20th century of "world" and "peace" - but, in late 19th century and before the 1917 revolution, it referred to sense of "community" in Russian villages. This word with its several meanings represents important concepts behind all of our work with Friends and Partners. Many people will, of course, associate the name with the Russian space station - which is legitimate too - as it represents many years of productive Russian and American scientific collaboration.

It is obvious that the MirNET effort is only beginning - but we are reasonably confident of its rapid start-up and must begin work now establishing new partnerships for its growth and development.


Prepared by;
Greg Cole
Center for International Networking Initiatives
The University of Tennessee System
2000 Lake Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
(423) 974-7277
FAX: (423) 974-8022

http://www.friends-partners.org/friends/mirnet/ (US site)
http://www.friends-partners.ru/friends/mirnet/ (Russian site)