SOURCE: Memphis Coalition for Advanced Networking


June 22, 2010 14:30 ET

MCAN: State-Funded Ultra High-Speed Research Link Launches

Connects Memphis Researchers to Oak Ridge, National Research Peers

MEMPHIS, TN--(Marketwire - June 22, 2010) -  The Memphis Coalition for Advanced Networking (MCAN) will inaugurate its ultra high speed fiber-optic communications network today with an event at the University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology.

MCAN is an independent, nonprofit corporation chartered to promote and operate leading-edge communications technologies that support education, research, public service, and economic development initiatives. MCAN founding members include the University of Memphis, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the Memphis Bioworks® Foundation. Key corporate partners include XO Communications, Cisco Systems, and Pomeroy IT Solutions.

In addition to facilitating scientific research, MCAN is designed to generate economic benefit from advanced networking applications. "The launch of this ultra high-speed research link creates intriguing potential for the Memphis business and entrepreneurial community," said Russell Ingram, president and executive director of MCAN. "Connectivity at this speed will allow development of novel technologies and applications that would otherwise not be possible. These new technologies will inevitably lead to new businesses and new jobs."

MCAN is the result of several years of work by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Memphis community. In 2008, the State of Tennessee granted a contract to Oak Ridge to create a high-speed link between Oak Ridge and Memphis. In 2009, Oak Ridge requested the participation of the Memphis community in designing and implementing that link. In response, representatives of the four major Memphis research institutions, along with an array of other Memphis community leaders, formed MCAN to build and administer a 10 gigabit per second data network among the research institutions and between Memphis, Oak Ridge, and the national Internet2 research network. In early 2010, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development funded the joint MCAN/Oak Ridge project with a grant of $3 million.

"The MCAN infrastructure provides vastly improved data transfer capacity, allowing researchers to collaborate using data that would otherwise present a significant challenge," says Dr. Clayton Naeve, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital CIO and MCAN board chairman. "For example, the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project will result in the sequencing of 1200 human genomes, each of which requires the production of 90,000,000,000 characters of information. If printed out, this amount of data would fill 40 million 4-drawer filing cabinets, enough to fill 26 Memphis Pyramids. MCAN makes it possible for researchers to transmit data on this scale."

MCAN is a state of the art, very high speed optical broadband communications network deployed over more than 50 miles of optical fiber reserved solely for MCAN use through a long term lease with XO Communications. MCAN connects with similar research networks in Tennessee to form a statewide very high speed research backbone connecting the principal research institutions in east, middle and west TN.

MCAN provides a network connection over a pair of optical fibers, to each member location, installation and maintenance of that connection on each Member institution's behalf, and circuit engineering and maintenance support for each network connection. The University of Memphis, through a provider agreement with MCAN, provides all network interface planning, engineering, management, and consulting support.

The foundation of the MCAN infrastructure is a dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM)-based optical network using Cisco Systems' 15454 optical electronic routers with a capacity of 32 wavelengths per fiber pair between members. Each wavelength can support transmission up to 10 billion bits per second (10 Gbps). Initially, MCAN will provide 1 wavelength at 10Gbps to each member and into Oak Ridge and the national Internet2 research network. Multiple waves can be provided along the optical backbone in support of primary and secondary access for each member institution to meet future needs. On top of the optical infrastructure is built an Ethernet based Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) transport facility. This provides for Internet, Internet2 and high speed IPv4 and IPv6 transit between participants.

Explanation of terms (Source: Wikipedia, TechWeb)
Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) is a system of optical signal multiplexing and amplification over optical networks.
Fiber-Optic Communications is a method of transmitting information by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber rather than using electronic transmission over copper wire. The main benefits of fiber are its exceptionally low loss, allowing long distances between amplifiers or repeaters; and its inherently very high data-carrying capacity, such that thousands of electrical links would be required to replace a single high bandwidth fiber cable.
Gigabit per second (Gbps) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to:

  • 1,000 Megabits per second or
  • 1,000,000 Kilobits per second or
  • 1,000,000,000 Bits per second

IPv4, IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 4, version 6) are versions of the widely deployed Internet Protocol (IP) standard used across the Internet. They form the core standard internetworking methods across the Internet. IPv4 is still the most widely deployed Internet protocol. IPv6 is gradually replacing IPv4.
Multi-Protocol Label Switching is a standard for routing information in packets over optical networks. MPLS insures the quality of service required to support real-time voice and video as well as service level agreements to guarantee bandwidth.

About the Memphis Coalition for Advanced Networking (MCAN)
The Memphis Coalition for Advanced Networking is a Tennessee non-profit corporation established in 2009. For more information, see

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