Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 1 No. 8, May 2003
Casual users of MOREnet’s services might not know that MOREnet maintains a network laboratory used for testing and research. Managed by MOREnet’s Strategic Technologies Group, the lab contains a number of different routers, computers and other equipment. The equipment allows technicians to quickly evaluate different configurations without impacting production facilities that are important to Internet connectivity throughout the state. Equipment in the lab includes a Cisco Call Manager 7825, 8 Dell PowerEdge 1550 servers, RADCOM PrismLite Network Analyzer and RC-100WL Network Analyzer. This little-known space is most often used by MOREnet employees, but is also available to MOREnet customers.
Much of the research MOREnet is known for is a product of time spent in the lab. The Internet2 research efforts are a good example of this type of research. The Internet2 community has set up a large network for testing voice over IP (VoIP) applications. VoIP allows a user to place a call over the Internet using either a computer or an IP phone. This technology could reduce costs by bypassing the traditional telephone network. However, a range of issues makes implementing VoIP difficult. For example, assigning a phone number can be problematic in any VoIP installation; if a phone is connected to the Internet, it doesn’t have a phone number. How does one conveniently connect to such a phone? Solutions to this and other issues are being tested. Quality of service issues related to reliability and the impact of VoIP calls on other network traffic also must be considered.
Another example of Internet2-related research is IPv6. As the successor to the current Internet protocol (version four) IPv6 offers a number of improvements. Some of the improvements include an increased number of available addresses, better organization of address blocks and easier Quality of Service implementation. However, the improvements come at a cost. To achieve many of the improvements, IPv6 scraps some of the structure of IPv4. This change of structure effectively means that some software written for IPv4 does not work with IPv6, and there are a number of issues getting the two versions to interoperate correctly (i.e., getting a network using IPv4 to connect properly to an IPv6 network). Still, the advantages of IPv6 are enormous, and the Internet2 research community, including MOREnet, is working to deal with these problems.
The lab, however, isn’t limited to I2 research. MOREnet technicians frequently use the lab to diagnose and troubleshoot network problems they encounter in the production network, and product evaluations are also commonplace. New types of equipment are routinely tested in the lab in order for technicians to evaluate whether the equipment would be useful to MOREnet and MOREnet customers.
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