SX TransPORT will provide dual 10 Gbit/s capacity circuits, to connect Australia's AARNet to research networks in North America

December 12, 2003

6 Min Read

CANBERRA, Australia -- The Southern Cross Trans-Pacific Optical Research Testbed (SX TransPORT), will fundamentally change the way that Australian scientists and researchers participate in global research initiatives and will vastly expand the horizons for delivering immersive educational programs and content.

SX TransPORT will provide dual 10 gigabit per second capacity circuits, sponsored by Southern Cross, connecting Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet) to the advanced Research and Educations Networks in North America, as part of a bundle of services, for approved non-commercial scientific, research and educational use.

The initiative results from a partnership between Southern Cross and AARNet to catalyse new, effective ways for Australia's research community to participate in and contribute to global e-science programs.

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP approved funding of $16.4 million as a contribution by the Australian Government towards the total cost of the project of $44.8 million.

The initiative will reduce the cost of use of very high bandwidth for Australian researchers, effectively removing the economic barriers to Australia's participation in the global research and education economy.

AARNet's Director of International Developments, George McLaughlin said the launch of SX TransPORT would enable Australia to participate in global e-science projects which required huge amounts of capacity and which had previously not been economically feasible.

"The way that collaborative scientific research is conducted progressively changed with the evolution of the Internet. It has changed more fundamentally in recent times with the development of grid computing, specialised remote instruments, virtual collaborative environments, and vast globally distributed, constantly updated datastores. Many research projects are now entirely reliant on using this 'global cyberinfrastructure'. High capacity research networks are what makes it all work," Mr McLaughlin said.

State of the art research equipment is now so expensive to build, or is dependent on special environmental conditions that restrict the locations where they can be sited, that in many cases there will only be a few such instruments in the world. Gaining access to and operating such facilities, as well as accessing and analysing the huge amounts of data generated requires very high capacity global networks put in place for these purposes.

SX TransPORT will have a big impact on astronomy, an area where Australia is a global leader. Australia is one of the nations likely to host major internationally-funded next-generation radio-telescopes, SKA (Square Kilometre Array) and LOFAR (Low Frequency Array). These telescopes will be able to peer back into the earliest days of the universe, and answer fundamental questions about how the first stars and galaxies came into being. But the scientific and technological benefits from hosting these telescopes, plus the hundreds of millions of dollars of international investment in them, will only come to Australia if overseas researchers can access these telescopes at gigabit speeds. "This new capacity means that researchers anywhere in the world could access these telescopes in Australia just as if they were in their own backyard", said Professor Ray Norris of CSIRO's Australia Telescope. "It makes Australia a much more attractive place to locate a major international facility".

There are many other examples of the benefits this infrastructure will bring, such as Australian applicants for a music degree at (say) Indiana University being able to audition remotely at extremely high fidelity from an Australian capital city; Australian participation in state of the art multi-centre global developments in weather and earthquake predication, and in sensing and anticipating consequences of changes in the world's oceans.

Access to the SX TransPORT facility will be managed by AARNet, which is also providing many of the terrestrial networks and terminating equipment components. The involvement at the US end is being coordinated by the University of Hawaii, which has a special relationship with AARNet spanning several years including a direct connection via the Southern Cross Cable Network since 2001. David Lassner, Chief Information Officer at the University of Hawaii, noted that "since none of the advanced US national networking initiatives actually reach Hawaii, our obstacles to participation in the emerging Cyberinfrastructure for modern research are actually more like those faced in Australia than the 48 US mainland States." Among the key scientific resources in Hawaii that will be made available to the global research community via SX TransPORT are the world's premier astronomical observatories on Mauna Kea.

One of the SX TransPORT 10Gbps circuits will connect through Hawaii and terminate in the US at Hillsboro in Oregon. Arrangements are currently being made to interconnect with the new Pacific Lambda Rail initiative to transit to the Pacific Wave advanced exchange point in Seattle where SX TransPORT will interconnect with Internet2's Abilene, with National Lambda Rail and CANARIE's CANet4 (both of which use switched optical lightpaths), as well as other national and international research and education networks.

The second 10Gbps circuit will terminate at San Luis Obispo in California and arrangements are being made to transit from there to the Los Angeles advanced exchange point where again interconnections will be made to Abilene, National Lambda Rail, TransPAC and other national and international research and education networks.

"SX TransPORT will create an immense opportunity for Australian researchers and its impact could have far reaching implications for Australia's future both socially and economically," Southern Cross Director Asia Pacific Ross Pfeffer said.

"This is a fundamental development in ensuring that Australia fully participates in global scientific and academic research and Southern Cross, in partnership with AARNet and with the support of Minister Nelson and the Australian Government, is pleased to be able to make its contribution available to the research community of Australia."

"SX Transport offers unprecedented capacity that will be solely and exclusively available for not for profit use in accordance with an Acceptable Use policy that has been agreed by AARNet and Southern Cross," Mr Pfeffer said.

AARNet's rights to use the capacity as outlined in the Southern Cross sponsorship agreement will commence within six months of the sponsorship's start date on 31 December 2003 and will last for an initial period of five years.

Approved organisations will enter into agreements with AARNet to use SX TransPORT under the direction of an Advisory Board. The Board will have representation from Southern Cross, AARNet, Internet2, the Australian Research Council and another authorised institution still to be agreed.

"The SX TransPORT project is an example of a truly exciting initiative in which all partners have worked together collaboratively to bring about a great achievement for Australia," Mr Pfeffer said.

Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet)

Southern Cross Cables Ltd.

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