Australian 'super' network passes test

A 'super' networking project has demonstrated that several high bandwidth technologies can be sent simultaneously between pipes without degradation of quality.

As part of a Federal Government-funded Centie (Centre for Networking Technology for the Information Economy) project, the CSIRO, Nortel Networks and Agilent Technology worked together to test the capability of 10Gbit/sec Ethernet over a metropolitan optical network.

On the first successful demonstration, the transmission was a combination of technologies that, while using a studio quality video link to communicate, let two people, in different locations, work together on a virtual 3D object, with each person able to feel the object and see what the other person was doing.

These two functions were also tested in a situation where they had to compete against a volume of network traffic equivalent to Sydney's telephone system at peak levels.

Dr Dean Economou, chief technologist for Centie, said the performance of the technologies was perfectly preserved during the demonstration.

"What made this [demonstration] possible is our understanding of 'quality of service', which allows important information or applications to take priority on the network."

The demonstration involved networking a virtual environment from two separate sites, CSIRO's Virtual Environments laboratory at the Australian National University and CSIRO's corporate headquarters several kilometres away.

Participants shared a CSIRO-developed virtual environment and collaborated with remote users over a studio-quality video link. The network was based on Nortel Networks 10Gbit/sec Ethernet equipment. The Agilent Technology RouterTester test equipment generated simulated traffic to fully saturate and stress the network under a variety of real-world trial scenarios.

The networked virtual environment technology, developed by CSIRO scientists, combines 3D images with an artificial sense of touch, known as 'haptics'. Haptic interaction allows users to physically touch and manipulate virtual objects, which means the technology could be used by a surgeon to train students, at the same time in different cities, using computer-generated body organs.

The CSIRO is one of a handful of organisations worldwide pioneering the networking of this technology and is a leader in applying it to surgical training.

"In the coming months, Centie expects to apply 10Gbit/sec Ethernet technology to film post-production, tele-collaboration and advanced health services, based on the success of this demonstration," Dr Economou said.

The Centie project is supported by the Commonwealth through the Building of IT Strengths (BITS) Advanced Networks Program (ANP) of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

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