Among the current applications for the dynamic circuit network, Internet2 expects to facilitate the transfer of data from CERN’s large hadron collider to researchers at other institutions, and it has done trials in which circuits are opened between the collider and the University of Nebraska. In the future, Summerhill says, the researchers hope that commercial applications develop from the technology. “Think of a network that provided hundreds or thousands of high-definition channels and also provided on-demand video capabilities,” he says. He foresees a commercial network that needs both high bandwidth and high quality of service, like some current academic requirements. “The methods for supporting that network are under investigation,” Summerhill says. Although right now, there are no commercial implementations, he notes that Internet2 works with commercial partners that might eventually be a conduit to bringing the technology into the ordinary Internet.
Clive Davenhall worked on software for academic circuit-switched networks in the United Kingdom, as part of his role as an engineer at the National e-Science Centre, in Edinburgh, which works to improve methods for conducting large-scale science research over the Internet. Davenhall says that, although people have been talking about dynamic circuit networks for a long time, this type of network hasn’t had much of an impact on the commercial Internet, partly because of concerns about how it might function in an environment less controlled than academia. For example, if the average person could set up a dedicated circuit on demand, it might be possible to hog resources that could interfere with other users’ experience.
Summerhill says that the dynamic circuit network is still in its early stages, and “still has some evolution to do.” He recalls the time that IP wasn’t considered ready for commercial applications. So far, four universities in four different regional networks are connected to the dynamic circuit network, says Lauren Rotman, public relations manager for Internet2. Rotman adds that it will be easy to add universities in regions that are already connected. The organization hopes to increase the dynamic circuit network’s reach significantly in the coming year.