Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

1 Introduction

This report summarizes the results of the Gigabit Testbed Initiative, a project involving several dozen participants that ran from 1990 to 1995. The report attempts to put these results into perspective by providing the background, motivation, and current trends impacting the overall work. Detailed descriptions of context and results can be found in the final reports from each of the five testbeds involved in the Initiative [2-6] .

The Initiative had two main goals, both of which were premised on the use of network testbeds: (1) to explore technologies and architectures for gigabit networking, and (2) to explore the utility of gigabit networks to the end user. In both cases the focus was on providing a data rate on the order of 1 Gbps to the end-points of a network, i.e., the points of user equipment attachment, and on maximizing the fraction of this rate available to a user application.

A key objective of the Initiative was to carry out this research in a wide-area real-world context. While the technology for user-level high-speed networking capability could be directly achieved by researchers in a laboratory setting circa 1990, extending this context to metropolitan or wide-area network distances at gigabit per second rates was virtually impossible, due both to the absence of wide-area transmission and switching equipment for end-user gigabit rates and to the lack of market motivation to procure and install such equipment by local and long-distance carriers.

To solve this "chicken-and-egg" problem, a collaborative effort involving both industry and the research communities was established by CNRI with funding from government and industry. NSF and ARPA jointly provided research funding for the participating universities and national laboratories, while carriers and commercial research laboratories provided transmission and switching facilities and results from their internally-funded research. Five distinct testbed collaborations were created. These were called Aurora, Blanca, Casa, Nectar, and Vistanet. (A sixth gigabit testbed called MAGIC [7] was funded by DARPA about 18 months later, but was managed as a separate project and is not further described in this report.)

Each testbed had a different set of research collaborators and a different overall research focus and objectives. At the same time, there were also common areas of research among the testbeds, allowing different solutions for a given problem to be explored.

The remainder of this report is organized as follows. Section 2, The Starting Point, briefly describes the technical context for the project which existed in the 1989-90 timeframe. Section 3, Structure and Goals, gives an overview of the Initiative structure, including the participants, topology and goals of each testbed. The main body of the report is contained in Section 4, Investigations and Findings, which brings together by technical topic the major work carried out in the five testbeds. Section 5, Conclusion, summarizes the impacts of the Initiative and how they might relate to the future of very high speed networking research. Appendix A lists reports and publications generated by the testbeds during the course of the project.

Readers are strongly encouraged to consult the testbed references and publications for more comprehensive and detailed discussions of testbed accomplishments. This report summarizes much of that work, but is by no means a complete cataloging of all efforts undertaken.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page