ResearchChannel: An Internet2 Content Repository and Test Bed

ResearchChannel is a consortium of more than 30 higher education institutions involved in new technologies for reaching the public with unmediated, peer-reviewed information from scientists and researchers, as well as the arts and humanities. High-bandwidth applications developed at ResearchChannel offers broadcast-quality content over the Internet, test and develop new network technologies, and define and solve issues for digital rights management and access for large digital collections.

Institutions such as Yale, University of Virginia, Rice, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington distribute programming not only over television, but also over the Internet and Internet2. The ResearchChannel library of Video-On-Demand resources contains more than 2,000 hours of original, direct-from-the-source programs that provide the latest information in various fields of higher education, from health to astronomy, and from forestry to technology. This library provides important resources to faculty, scientists, and the general public that is not available through more traditional access methods.

The ResearchChannel repository also serves as a test bed for the development of new technologies and for exploring the issues of digital preservation, such as storage, content manipulation, and peering.

ResearchChannel was the first to stream broadcast-quality video over Internet2 in 1998 at 6Mbps and the first to stream HDTV in 1999 at 270Mbps, demonstrating that high-fidelity video applications are not only going to change the what the Internet can provide, but also the possibilities for teaching and learning.

End users show definite preferences for the improved quality in audio, frame rate, picture size, and resolution. The statistics collected on streaming media demonstrates that users will view the same program three times longer at higher bandwidths. ResearchChannel streams more than 10,000 hours of programming a month, including live Web casts and VOD formats, with the vast percentage at bandwidths of at least 700Kbps.

These streaming resources are available 24/7 and require an extensive management system of data center computing. Unfortunately, in the complex world of research and education institutions, adequate systems that address the complete program life span requirements from content acquisition to content preservation, which is not readily available.

ResearchChannel launched a project called DigitalWell in 2000 to address all the aspects of content management in making digital collections available to the public. Media assets are often created and collected by disparate organizations and departments both within and outside an institution, making it difficult to maintain and share resources over the longer term. DigitalWell is addressing these complex problems through technology experiments and development efforts directed at streamlining and simplifying the acquisition, aggregation, cataloging, storage, and delivery processes associated with managing large collections of digital content. Of particular interest are issues related to enabling access to high-quality, high-definition video and audio assets via Internet2 networks.

DigitalWell has grown to include additional collections from the University of Washington, KEXP-FM, Library of Congress AMIA Moving Images Collections, and others. ResearchChannel has several international partners that have requested peering and mirroring of the ResearchChannel collection, and these projects are currently looking at how to preserve the limited network resources for both transatlantic and transpacific distribution.

Expanding DigitalWell to accommodate other collections and facilitate peer-to-peer access and content sharing continues with a partnership between ResearchChannel and Public Television, lead by Wisconsin Public Television and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Elinks Station Online Content Sharing project focuses on asset management and digital distribution of rich media content, allowing for the sharing of limited video resources. It is an Internet2-based repository and distribution test bed designed to evaluate the benefits and challenges of content sharing and collaboration in public service media.

ResearchChannel continues to investigate and develop new technologies for the Internet2 community through the ResearchChannel/Internet2 Working Group (http://www.researchchannel.org/projects/i2wg/). Experiments in multicast have lead to the capability to distribute a broadcast-quality stream over Internet and then re-distribute to cable systems, pushing the boundaries of the convergence of television and Internet. The Working Group is now focused on creating high-bandwidth and high-resolution interactive video over the Internet. Testing among Dartmouth, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and Internet2 will lead to video conferencing over IP that will showcase generations of improvement over existing technologies. Projects with organizations in Brazil and Korea will further expand content manipulation processes.

ResearchChannel will continue to experiment, lead, develop, integrate, and test technologies so that content from research and educational institutions will be directly available to the general public. It provides a platform for advancing IT solutions while providing models for use of advanced applications to positively impact the infrastructure of campus networks and system architecture.

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