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National LambdaRail: the Advanced Optical Network

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

It began as a way to link academic and research institutions throughout the United States, so that they could more easily communicate and collaborate on projects. In the beginning, it was limited to a small number of entities, all of whom thrived on the cutting edge of networking technology.

If that sounds like the early days of the Internet, it is. But it’s also an equally apt description of National LambdaRail (NLR), a 12,000-mile, $70 million optical network established in 2003. It uses 10-gigabit (Gb) transponders (with 40Gb and 100Gb in the roadmap) that allows bandwidth on demand for its academic and research members, now numbering more than 280.

The name comes from the term lambda networking, which uses multiple optical wavelengths to provide independent communications channels along a strand of fiber optic cable.

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