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OARnet’s rapid growth continues with major network upgrades

The Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet), which provides technology solutions to education, government, and health care communities in Ohio, was one of five R&E Networks in the nation to initiate a 400G connection to Internet2 by the end of 2021.

During 2022, OARnet will upgrade its current 100G Internet2 connections in Cleveland and Cincinnati, which support peering, cloud computing, research, and education activities. The network has seen more than a 50 percent utilization rate. Planning for the future, OARnet will create a unique architecture to support growth of those dedicated services.

“During the last two years OARnet has experienced significant demand for its network,” said Pankaj Shah, executive director of OARnet. “Educational institutions face a growing need for cloud services and connectivity. In addition, the state has seen an increase in the number of researchers actively pursuing new projects and collaborations, especially in the very topical areas of health care and cybersecurity.”

The Internet2 connection offers colleges and universities the ability to easily collaborate with hundreds of other higher education institutions across the country. These collaborations have helped advance the endeavors of Ohio’s research-intensive institutions, which include five R1 and eight R2 universities, as well as entities such as the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Researchers at The Ohio State University, for example, are able to participate in the ATLAS collaboration that is conducting groundbreaking particle physics research at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. Ohio State scientists also attracted $15 million in NSF funding for a new Imageomics Institute to advance research in the biomedical, biological, and agricultural sciences. The Ohio Supercomputer Center, Ohio State, and Case Western Reserve University are collaborating on the new $20 million NSF-funded AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE), which will render AI more accessible to everyone.

In the lead-up to the 400G project, OARnet has been playing an active role in supporting the rising networking needs of K-12 and higher education institutions in Ohio. In late 2020, the Ohio Department of Higher Education awarded OARnet $12.1 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to establish the Last-Mile Enhancement Program, through which OARnet is increasing broadband at 41 Ohio colleges and universities and doubling the Internet subscriptions at connected institutions for two years. By the end of 2022, all OARnet member schools will have a minimum 10G last-mile connection to their campuses.

In July 2021, OARnet received an NSF Campus Cyberinfrastructure (CC*) planning grant for the Virtual Research-Education Ohio (VROhio) program, which will build on these upgraded capabilities. OARnet and its partners are developing a network of STEM training and research resources for smaller higher education institutions across Ohio. The Ohio Supercomputer Center and the Case Western Reserve University Electron Microscopy Facility are initial content and resource providers on the project, which is also supported by national entities EPOC, The Quilt, InCommon/Internet2, and Trusted CI.

The Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet), a division of the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Ohio Technology Consortium (OH-TECH), serves the state’s government, education, healthcare and public broadcasting communities. Through innovative public-private partnerships and a state-of-the-art fiber optic network, OARnet expands access to affordable broadband and delivers critical networking and technology services for academic and commercial R&D.