India is building a high-speed multi-gigabit pan-India network to link all major Indian universities, libraries, laboratories, hospitals, and agricultural institutions.
The $1.3 billion National Knowledge Network (NKN) among 1,500 institutions seeks to encourage collaboration and research on a global-scale. At present, 908 nodes have been connected. Researchers, academicians, and students from diverse backgrounds and geographies will ultimately leverage the network to their advantage. While NKN will eventually reach the US, connecting to research networks like Internet2, Canarie, Gloriad, and Nysernet, links to regional networks will be established first.
Global real-time research is already part of the network through the third generation Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN-3), a dedicated, high-speed regional research and education network in Asia and Europe. Tein-3 fosters robust research and education IP connectivity, linking Asia-Pacific researchers to each other and their counterparts in Europe. Direct, fast links to Europe's multi-gigabit Geant network make this possible. Seventeen Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim nations are connected on the Tein-3 network. Tein-3 has been used for:
- Timely transmission of global meteorological data, which in turn enables faster, more accurate weather forecasting.
- Remote lectures and interactive video-conferences for students across the region.
- Specific analysis of data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in Geneva, is being carried out by scientists at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Kolkata and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. Two of the seven experiments, ALICE and CMS, related to heavy ion and particle physics are supported on NKN. The CMS experiment recently led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson on God particle by CERN.
- The Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai, has conducted protein crystallography studies accessing the Synchrotron at Grenoble, France. This has enabled studies on structure-function relationships in biological macromolecules and design of new drugs.
On the domestic front, the NKN envisages applications in the areas of agriculture, education, health, e-governance, and high performance grid computing. Several model application projects have been launched in these areas, including virtual classrooms, open-source drug discovery, Collab-CAD application for reactor component design, and weather modeling. Notable among these are:
- The Indian Brain Imaging Network Grid or I-Brain created by scientists at the National Brain Research Centre, Manesar, to study brain scans and enable early detection of Alzheimer's disease.
- A Meta University is taking shape on the strength of the NKN. Eligible students will be able to pursue multiple courses through this concept –- an extension of virtual classrooms -– which is collaborative and based on open-source learning materials.
India's national grid, Global Access to Resources Using Distributed Architecture (GARUDA), has been migrated onto the NKN. Garuda is a service-oriented architecture-based aggregation of computational nodes, mass storage and scientific instruments, spanning 17 cities and 45 institutions. Research has started in semantic grid services, integrated development environment, storage resource managers, network simulation, and grid file systems. Efforts are on to integrate technology components of Garuda with the EGEE under an EU-India Grid collaboration to allow users to access the resources and services across both the grids in a secure and seamless manner. At present, Garuda resources are also being accessed to screen drug targets for metabolic disorders from traditional plants and for seasonal prediction of Indian monsoons, aerospace engineering, and disaster management.
The NKN backbone starts from 2.5Gbps and progressively moves to 10Gbps connectivity between seven supercore (fully meshed) locations around India. The network is further spread out through 26 core locations with multiple 2.5/10Gbps partially meshed connections among supercore locations. The distribution layer connects the entire country to the core of the network using multiple links at speeds of 2.5/10Gbps. End users are connected at speeds of up to 1Gbps. The network architecture and governance structure allows users options to connect to the distribution layer as well.
The potential of the NKN is not lost on the private sector, which has been clamoring for access to the high bandwidth connectivity to reach out to rural areas and offer invaluable services in the areas of health and telemedicine.
Are you as a CIO in India interested in leveraging NKN? Do you think it should be opened up to the private sector? Leave your comments below.