Ole Miss first to utilize new Mississippi Optical Network

OXFORD — The University of Mississippi is the first entity to begin using the new Mississippi Optical Network, referred to as MissiON.

The network serves the Mississippi Research Consortium, which includes UM, Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University. The network also serves the UM Medical Center, the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

“Scientific discovery is undergoing a major shift, a shift marked by exponential increases in the amount of data scientists collect and use,” said Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “The MissiON high-speed network allows our researchers to share abundant data with one another and with the world, providing vital infrastructure for the kind of work Mississippi’s researchers do.

“Environmental sensor networks, telescopes, genomic sequencing machines, computer simulations and other technologies are generating petabytes of data on an annual basis. We are grateful to the many organizations and individuals who worked in concert to make this remarkable improvement a reality for researchers in Mississippi.”

UM connects to the State of Mississippi Data Center through two 10 GB managed wave circuits. Before, Ole Miss connected to the center in Jackson by means of a redundant 1 GB metro ethernet connection. The new network gives the university more than 10 times its previous network capacity and increases the total bandwidth available to UM students, faculty and staff.

An additional benefit is that the increased bandwidth afforded by MissiON allows the university to improve its disaster recovery and business continuity strategy.

The planning process for the cutover began well over a year ago. During that time, UM configurations were analyzed and equipment requirements were developed.

“The advent of the MissiON network afforded us the opportunity to redesign the front end of the Oxford campus network, enhancing redundancy, increasing bandwidth and improving firewall services,” said Robin Miller, deputy CIO and director of technical services at UM. “The UM network group spent long hours preparing our local infrastructure for the changes.”

AT&T officially kicked off the cutover portion of the project in May 2011. In October, Ole Miss placed orders for the necessary Oxford equipment and weekly status calls were conducted with AT&T, JSU, MSU, UMMC and USM.

The UM networking group installed new equipment in its data center in December in preparation for the move. The staff worked with network engineers from AT&T, the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative and the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services to accomplish the move.

“In less than four hours, a very complicated process to move our commodity Internet and Internet2 traffic to a new network infrastructure was completed,” Miller said.

The network was completed late last year. The $16 million project is funded through the state’s existing contract with AT&T to provide technology services to the state. The network is unique in that it stretches into all regions of the state and places Mississippi on an even playing field with neighboring states.

The network will allow Mississippi universities to aggressively pursue grant opportunities to support academic research, former Gov. Barbour said at the time of the announcement.

Consortium members have $380.7 million of federally funded research dependant on access to large data pipelines. Data-intensive projects that will immediately benefit from the new network include the Jackson Heart Study at UMMC and JSU, agricultural and environmental modeling projects at MSU, disaster simulations and marine research at UM, medical research at UMMC and biomedical and technological research at USM.

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