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I-Light celebrates 10 years of discovery, collaboration

Indiana's high-speed education network is key to state’s success in a wealth of research areas

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—What exactly is the universe made of? How did art shape ancient Roman culture? What causes disorders like epilepsy and schizophrenia?

Indiana researchers are finding answers to these and other pressing questions thanks to the I-Light network, the high-speed fiber optic network that connects every Indiana public university and private college. Managed by the Indiana University Global Research Network Operations Center, I-Light connects members to state, national and international research and education communities, enabling collaboration and discovery to benefit us all.

This year marks the network’s 10th year of operation, and IU will celebrate this milestone at the I-Light members meeting and anniversary celebration June 9-10 at the Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center in Indianapolis.

"I-Light is the indispensable enabler and equalizer for research and education across the state,” said Brad Wheeler, IU chief information officer, vice president for IT, and interim dean of the School of Informatics and Computing. 

"In its first decade, I-Light was built by 38 companies, is managed by highly skilled network engineering jobs here in the state, and now serves 42 college and university members," Wheeler continued. "I-Light efficiently connects our members at top speed and at a great value that otherwise would not be possible. With the recent 100 Gigabit upgrade, Indiana will be among the first states to bring its network up to the speed of the national research network, Internet2." 

Marianne Chitwood, I-Light director, is looking forward to the network’s next decade. "I-Light’s first 10 years have seen unimaginable growth, and I’m looking forward to what the next decade will bring," she said. "Our goal will always be to enable new discovery. Whether it’s a cure for cancer or a better way to receive imagery from Mars, I-Light gives researchers quick and convenient access to the tools they need to find answers to their research questions. The future of I-Light is very bright."

In May 2016, I-Light announced a bandwidth increase from 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 100 Gbps. The new 100G capability allows I-Light to provide the following services even more efficiently:

  • High-quality video connections
  • Exchange of large data files
  • Access to supercomputers and scientific data storage facilities
  • Multi-campus collaborative research projects

The ability to share large data files is certainly crucial to Norbert Neumeister’s research. A physics professor at Purdue University, Neumeister studies experimental particle physics, collaborating with researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland to better understand the universe and the Big Bang theory. The LHC, a 17-mile-long accelerator, is the largest scientific instrument on the planet. It produces massive amounts of data.

"My lab provides storage for 4 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to 1 million DVDs of data," said Neumeister, whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. "We use I-Light to efficiently move and transfer this data from the experiment, to our site, and also to other scientists who want to access it for analysis. The excellent network connectivity that I-Light provides is key to our future funding."

For Lige Hensley, chief technology officer of Ivy Tech Community College, being a member of the I-Light network means his 32 campuses save money while offering top-notch connectivity to all students.

"I-Light gives us much more bang for our buck when it comes to networking," said Hensley. "I-Light gives us a fixed number we can budget for, it’s very reasonable, and it certainly gives us far better performance than we’ve had with any other vendor.

"Having I-Light connectivity in the rural parts of the state allows Ivy Tech to offer consistency to all of our students," he continued. "In the past if you were in one of the denser populated areas such as Fort Wayne or Indianapolis, you got the full experience. If you were in Logansport or Warsaw, perhaps it was a bit less. Today, with good connectivity to all of our locations, there’s no more discrepancy. All of our students are equal, from a technology perspective."

To learn more about I-Light, visit http://ilight.net/