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News :: International Relations

China, Russia, U.S. Jointly Build, Manage Fiber-optic Network Links in Northern Hemisphere

Washington -- China, Russia and the United States have joined forces to build and manage a fiber-optic network that circles the Northern Hemisphere, creating a high-bandwidth Internet-like system that links scientists, educators and students worldwide. The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications (GLORIAD) is funded by government agencies in all three countries. The network also features partnerships with the world’s most advanced research and engineering infrastructures in Korea, the Netherlands and Canada.
China, Russia, U.S. Jointly Build, Manage Fiber-optic Network Links in Northern Hemisphere promote cooperation in science, education

By Cheryl Pellerin
Washington File Staff Writer
Created: 15 Apr 2005 Updated: 22 Apr 2005


This article is one in a series on U.S.-China economic relations.

“At its simplest level, just think about fiber-optic cable around the Northern Hemisphere,” said Greg Cole, research director at the University of Tennessee Joint Institute for Computational Science at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “We’re under the ocean in the Atlantic and the Pacific and across the tundra.”

The emphasis is on connecting science communities, particularly those that do not have a long tradition of working well together.

“It’s not as much about networking as it is about getting our scientists, educators and students working openly and together,” Cole added. “The network is something we leverage to bring people to the table so we can open new areas of cooperation.”

GLORIAD began in 1997 as NaukaNet (Russian for ScienceNet), a network funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Russian Ministry of Science.

In 2003, the United States and Russia invited China to join the GLORIAD partnership, and the network was extended to China in 2004 – with trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific telecommunications services provided by Tyco Global Networks. Later in 2004, the network crossed the Russia-China border to complete the ring.

Funding for GLORIAD comes from NSF in the United States; the Russian Ministry of Science; the Kurchatov Institute and the Russian Academy of Science in Russia, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology.

“Financing the project has been a challenge for us on the U.S. side but it hasn’t seemed to be so for our Chinese partners,” Cole said. GLORIAD is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of a set of five international networking programs.

The network supports a range of scientific applications, including the most advanced areas of collaborative research in peaceful applications of high-energy, nuclear and fusion-energy physics; atmospheric science; astronomical observation; geological sciences; environmental monitoring; bioinformatics; protection of nuclear materials; epidemiology, and others.

These data-intensive applications -- too massive to work across the commercial Internet -- require a dedicated network. GLORIAD now supports such applications and is still being improved.

“The [commercial] Internet is called a packet-switched network,” Cole said. “You do something and your packets go into the network and come out the other side. You don’t care how they get there; you just want them to get there reliably.

“The network we’re building now will support that model -- general traffic, web, e-mail. In the new [hybrid] network, you’ll be able to get a dedicated circuit across the network for two hours, for example, so you’ll have quality guarantees in terms of available bandwidth,” he said.

The Chinese “have been very reliable partners,” Cole said, “doing what they’ve promised -- completing circuits to the U.S. and completing the circuit with our Russian partners across the Russia-China border.”

But more than that, he added, “China is rapidly developing its domestic infrastructure to support science cooperation with the U.S., and the importance of that cannot be overestimated.”

Just a few years ago, China did not have much in the way of a telecommunications infrastructure for science and education, Cole said, but that has changed.

Today, he said, “they are putting in 1-gigabit per second and larger links all over the country ... they have demonstrated a real eagerness backed by resources to develop good telecommunications to their science facilities.”

GLORIAD has high-level government support in both Russia and China. In China, Jiang Mianheng, a vice president with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) responsible for computing, networking and information technology issues, leads the GLORIAD effort for CAS.

Yan Baoping directs the 360-member staff of the China-wide Computer Network Information Center. She is responsible for developing the CAS network and related programs and operating GLORIAD in China.

“Moving into these much higher-performance networks,” Cole said, “involves tying together computational facilities and more closely integrating our science communities. In Russia and China, you need very senior leadership to make sure it stays on the right track.”

Although it is mainly a science-and-education project, Cole said, GLORIAD’s economic impact is potentially enormous.

“For example, in China it means we’re going to be that much more engaged and that will lead to increased business activity,” he said. “Any project that encourages sharing and cooperation, as we’re trying with GLORIAD, leads to increased business cooperation. We don’t do this project without business involvement.”

Already, he added, GLORIAD is fostering stronger ties and working relationships among the six partnering countries and helping build trust from the highest levels of government to the next generation of leaders.

Created: 15 Apr 2005 Updated: 22 Apr 2005

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