Mason Part of New National Science Research Network

Posted: March 29, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Last week, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced the creation of VORTEX, a broadband optical fiber network that will connect Virginia’s universities to new national and international research networks. George Mason is a member of the regional consortium that created the network.

“VORTEX will provide Virginia’s academic researchers with new cyberinfrastructure tools and will enable access to the fastest networks in the country,” Warner said. “These tools are essential if our schools are to compete for major science and engineering projects.”

VORTEX was developed by the Mid-Atlantic Terascale Partnership (MATP), a regional consortium that includes Virginia’s doctoral universities. Besides Mason, they are the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech. VORTEX will link these research universities to the National LambdaRail, a new national optical research backbone for scientists, engineers, and innovators.

George Mason researchers are heavily involved in supercomputing at the nation’s leading supercomputer centers, with huge computing requirements in weather and climate, defense, homeland security, nanotechnology, and bioinformatics and computational biology. “Lambda level” access will permit scientists to harness these computing resources in a much more powerful and collaborative way, making George Mason a frontline partner in tackling the nation’s research priorities. VORTEX provides the necessary communication to share computing around the nation easily and effectively.

The network is being assembled by Verizon Virginia; Verizon will use spare capacity in the system to offer new advanced broadband services throughout the commonwealth, including rural areas.

Rather than building a single-purpose, state-owned fiber optic network solely for research, Virginia is leveraging NetworkVirginia to collaborate with Verizon and other providers to build a new statewide system to support both research and economic development interests. This public-private partnership will cost significantly less than a single-purpose system.

VORTEX is currently under construction, with completion scheduled for July 2005, when it will reach all initial nodes: Norfolk, Richmond, McLean, Charlottesville, Roanoke, and Blacksburg.

Costs for VORTEX are divided among participating institutions, state government, and private investment. Virginia MATP member institutions will invest an estimated $6 million over five years. The Commonwealth of Virginia made a one-time contribution of $2.4 million with support from Warner’s administration. Verizon and other providers are making a significant, multimillion-dollar investment in excess of the amounts contributed by MATP members and the state for construction and operation of the network.

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