Southern Light Rail To Be Researchers’ Path to Advanced Networks

Georgia Tech is in the process of creating a cooperative corporation called Southern Light Rail (SLR) that will give researchers in the Southeast access to the National LambdaRail (NLR). Southern Light Rail and National LambdaRail represent the next generation of the advanced network technology needed to support collaborative research among major universities and research centers nationwide.

Southern Light Rail will offer a suite of research network services on a fee-for-service basis to researchers in both the public and private sectors. The initial NLR infrastructure will provide dedicated, optically isolated connections, with a standard speed of 10 gigabits per second. In addition, various services at 1 gigabit per second will be available. These services will allow researchers to build private networks between labs regionally and nationwide, which are isolated from the Internet, Internet2, and campus networks. The capabilities that Southern Light Rail services offer will be advantageous for projects with performance and security requirements.

“We’re looking forward to some important NLR events in June,” stated Brian Savory, project manager for Southern Light Rail. “Atlanta’s NLR node will be operational in June, connecting Atlanta to the Raleigh-Durham and Washington, DC nodes of NLR. And Atlanta’s hub to the National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid will be turned on in June. The TeraGrid includes six supercomputing centers now. The Atlanta hub will add the supercomputing centers at the University of Texas and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the TeraGrid.”

Southern Light Rail already has its own initiative: the Georgia Collaborative Research Initiative, formerly known as the Georgia BioRing or BioGrid. This initiative is a primary focus of OIT’s Academic and Research Technologies group. The goal of the initiative is to develop and encourage collaborations among major research locations in Georgia, which would not be possible without Southern Light Rail. This involves the discovery of existing relationships among researchers, as well as the cultivation of new ones. Among the core technologies for collaborative research are high performance computing, remote instrument access, shared datasets, telepresence*, scientific visualization, and the advanced network services offered by Southern Light Rail.

“We’re getting researchers excited about Southern Light Rail,” said Cynthia Morneweck, Georgia Collaborative Research Initiative team member. “This is not Internet2. It’s an advanced network for research that can’t be done on Internet2. And we’re letting researchers know they can include funding for SLR services in their grant proposals.”

The Georgia Collaborative Research Initiative is initially targeting researchers in the fields of nanotechnology, climatology, and the biosciences. The initiative is exploring strategic alliances with private sector companies in order to provide connectivity for researchers outside the metro Atlanta area. In addition to Georgia Tech, the schools that now have connectivity to Southern Light Rail include Emory University, Georgia State University, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. Once the Atlanta node for NLR is active, researchers at these schools will be able to contract for network services anywhere on the NLR footprint.

When Southern Light Rail is incorporated, Savory will serve as its executive director. The Georgia Tech participants who will serve on the corporation’s board include Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau, provost, Bob Thompson, senior vice president for administration and finance, and Ron Hutchins, chief technology officer. OIT’s ART group will manage Southern Light Rail operations in areas where the group can provide core competencies.

Several Georgia Research Alliance partners, institutions in the University System of Georgia, have expressed an interest in participating in Southern Light Rail. Charter participants will be asked to commit funding of $100,000 per year for the first three years, and $200,000 per year for the following two years. Schools in Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee are also interested in becoming participants.

*Telepresence is a futuristic term. “We define Transparent Telepresence as the experience of being fully present at a live real world location remote from one’s own physical location. Someone experiencing transparent telepresence would therefore be able to behave, and receive stimuli, as though at the remote site.” — Transparent Telepresence Research Group (