Virginia Tech has created a new high-performance data network exchange facility in Atlanta, Ga., which is dramatically improving reliability and capacity for access to national and international research networks. 

The facility, named the Mid-Atlantic Research and Education Exchange Atlanta will also streamline access to major research centers throughout the southeastern United States.

The new facility complements another data network exchange already operated by Virginia Tech in the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area of northern Virginia. The Washington, D.C., facility was formerly known as the NatCap Aggregation Facility.

Modern science and engineering research depends on specialized high-performance networks, such as Internet2, which link distributed computing, storage, visualization, sensor, and laboratory resources with research scientists and students collaborating over a global cyberinfrastructure.

Since 1998, Virginia Tech has operated statewide network and aggregation facilities that link Virginia’s major research institutions to national research networks and provide a regional hub for data transfer. In 2012, the primary aggregation facility in the Washington, D.C.-area was rebuilt using the latest technology, raising transfer speeds to 100 gigabits-per-second (Gbps).

The establishment of the second data network exchange facility in Atlanta provides geographic diversity, backup connectivity, and direct peering connections with major research institutions such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control. Virginia Tech partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology to house the new facility and to establish the regional peering connections.

Both data exchange facilities are linked to Virginia Tech via extremely fast fiber optic connections established through the university’s participation in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which expanded the regional fiber network. Having two connections, one going north and one south, greatly enhances reliability and up-time. Virginia Tech will remain connected even in the face of a fiber cut on one of the paths, or a problem at one of the facilities.

Virginia Tech’s Network Infrastructure and Services, a unit of Information Technology, designed both facilities and operates them under contract to the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance. Executive Director William Dougherty says he considers the data exchange facilities to be a critical strategic program for the university. “Providing the best possible access to national research networks is vital to our mission to enable the competitiveness of Virginia Tech research,” said Dougherty. “By allowing other regional universities to use these facilities, we create economies of scale and support Virginia Tech’s commitment to engagement and leadership.” Participating institutions all contribute to the cost of operating the data network exchange facilities.

To learn more about national research networks, the Mid-Atlantic Research and Education Exchange facilities, Virginia Tech’s regional and national leadership in data exchange networking, or how research and teaching programs can benefit from tapping into these resources, contact Network Infrastructure and Services.

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