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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2005 / 03 

Fast new network to connect Virginia universities

March 21, 2005

Gov. Mark R. Warner announced today the creation of VORTEX, a broadband optical fiber network that will connect Virginia's universities to new national and international research networks. The governor made the announcement in a ceremony in the Rotunda at the University of Virginia.

"VORTEX will provide Virginia's academic researchers with new cyber infrastructure tools, and will enable access to the fastest networks in the country," Warner said. "These tools are essential if our schools are to compete for major science and engineering projects."

VORTEX is the creation of the Mid-Atlantic Terascale Partnership (MATP), a regional consortium including Virginia's doctoral universities: University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the College of William & Mary. It will link these Virginia research universities to the National LambdaRail, a new national optical research backbone for scientists, engineers, and innovators (

The network will enable Virginia's universities to participate in "big science" projects throughout the nation and the world. It will provide "lambda level" access to 10 Gbps channels using technology that provides researchers with far greater capacity and control than today's Internet. "Imagine scientists from around Virginia and around the world using Virginia Tech's System X supercomputer, the lowest-cost supercomputer ever built, without ever leaving home, and you can understand the power of the VORTEX network," Warner said.

Verizon Virginia is assembling the network, and will make the increased broadband connectivity available for business applications. Verizon will use spare capacity in the system to offer new advanced broadband services throughout the Commonwealth, including rural areas.Rather than building a single purpose, state-owned fiber optic network solely for research (the approach taken in a few other states), Virginia is leveraging NetworkVirginia -- an advanced, broadband network delivering Internet and intranet services statewide -- to collaborate with Verizon and other providers to build a new statewide Wave Division Multiplexing-based (WDM) system to support both research and economic development interests. This public- private partnership will cost significantly less than a single purpose system.

VORTEX is currently under construction, with completion scheduled for July 2005, reaching all initial nodes including Norfolk, Richmond, McLean, Charlottesville, Roanoke, and Blacksburg. Costs for VORTEX are divided among the participating institutions, state government, and private investment. Virginia MATP member institutions will invest an estimated $6 million over five years. The Commonwealth of Virginia made a one-time contribution of $2.4 million with support from Governor Warner's administration. Verizon and other providers are making a significant, multi-million dollar investment in excess of the amounts contributed by MATP members and the state for construction and operation of the network.