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National LambdaRail


National LambdaRail is a 12,000-mile (19,000 km), high-speed national network infrastructure owned and operated by the U.S. research and education community that runs over fiber-optic lines, and is the first transcontinental 10-Gigabit Ethernet network. Its very high capacity (up to 1.6 Tbit/s aggregate), high bandwidth (40 Gbit/s implemented; planning for 100 Gbit/s underway) and high availability (99.99% or more), enable National LambdaRail to support some of the world's most demanding research projects. Users include NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and over 280 research universities and other laboratories. In 2009 National LambdaRail was selected to provide wide-area networking for U.S. laboratories participating in research related to the Large Hadron Collider project, based near Geneva, Switzerland.

It is primarily oriented to aid terascale computing efforts and to be used as a network testbed for experimentation with next-generation large-scale networks. National LambdaRail is a university-based and -owned initiative, in contrast with Abilene and Internet2, which are university-corporate sponsorships. National LambdaRail does not impose any acceptable use policies on its users, in contrast to commercial networks. This gives researchers more control to use the network for these research projects. National LambdaRail also supports a production layer on its infrastructure.

Links in the network use dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), which allows up to 64 individual optical wavelengths to be used (depending on hardware configuration at each end) separated by 100 GHz spacing. At present, individual wavelengths are used to carry traditional OC-X (OC3, OC12, OC48 or OC192) TDM circuits or Ethernet signal for Gigabit Ethernet or 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Glenn Ricart is president and CEO of National LambdaRail. Kurt Snodgrass chief administrative and financial officer. Jim Dolgonas, president and CEO of CENIC, is the Chair of the National LambdaRail Board of Directors. National LambdaRail was founded in 2003 and in 2004 its national, advanced fiber optic network was completed. In addition to being the first transcontinental, production 10-Gigabit Ethernet network, National LambdaRail was also the first intelligently managed, nationwide peering and transit program focused on research applications.


The goals of the National LambdaRail project are:

  • To bridge the gap between leading-edge optical network research and state-of-the-art applications research;
  • To push beyond the technical and performance limitations of today’s Internet backbones;
  • To provide the growing set of major computationally intensive science (often termed e-Science) projects, initiatives and experiments with the dedicated bandwidth, deterministic performance characteristics, and/or other advanced network capabilities they need; and
  • To enable and to rekindle the possibilities for highly creative, out-of-the-box experimentation and innovation that characterized facilities-based network research during the early years of the Internet.

Member organizations

Members of National LambdaRail (NLR) are state or regional optical networks (RONs), which provide the last mile connectivity to the individual universities and laboratories using NLR. NLR currently has 13 members which enable more than 280 research universities and government laboratories to connect to NLR. The following is a list, from the official National LambdaRail web site, of LambdaRail member organizations.

  • CENIC (The Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California)
  • Florida LambdaRail
  • Front Range GigaPop / University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  • Lonestar Education and Research Network (LEARN)
  • North Carolina Light Rail
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
  • Pacific Northwest Gigapop
  • Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center / University of Pittsburgh
  • Southeastern Universities Research Association
  • Southern Light Rail
  • The Virginia Tech Foundation/Mid-Atlantic Crossroads
  • University of New Mexico (on behalf of the State of New Mexico)


National LambdaRail operates the first and only non-commercial Cisco TelePresence exchange and recently conducted the first international TelePresence session over a research and education network.


American University in Dubai [AUD]
California State University [Calstate]
California State University-Northridge
Case Western Reserve U [CWRU]
Cisco Center for Excellence (Herndon)
Dialog Café
East Carolina University (Greenville)
Florida A&M University [FAMU]
Florida Int'l Univ (AMPATH) [FIU]
Fresno School District
George Mason U
Georgia Tech [GaTech]
Indiana University GRNOC-NLR [GRNOC]
Indiana University System [IU]
Inver Hills Community College (Minnesota)
James Madison University (Virginia) [JMU]
Johns Hopkins University
Lawrence Livermore National Lab [LLNL]
Madison Area Technical College (Wisc)[MATC]
Marist College (Poughkeepsie
MCNC (North Carolina state R&E network)
Moraine Park Technical College (Wisconsin)
MOREnet [UMissouri]
National Science Foundation [NSF]
National U of Singapore
NCSA Access (Washington DC) [NCSA-Access]
New York University [NYU]
North Carolina State U [NCSU]
ONEnet (Oklahoma R&E network) [NLR-OKC]
Paradise Valley Schools
Peking Univ Guanghua School of Management
Penn State University-College of IST [PSU]
Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center [PSC]
Purdue University (Indiana)
Renaissance Computing Institute at U North Carolina
Rice University
Riverstone Energy (Virginia Tech) [Riverstone]
Robert Morris U [RMU]
Rochester Institute of Technology
San Jose State University (California) [SJSU]
Slovakia National Network
Smithsonian Institution
Stanford University
Texas A&M University [TAMU] Dept of Engineering
Thailand-Uninet (Thai NREN)
Towson University
U California-San Diego (CalIT2)
U California-Berkeley Haas School of Business [Berkeley-Haas]
U California-Berkeley CITRIS project
U Chicago [UChicago]
U Colorado-Colorado Springs [UCCS]
U Denver
U Maine System [UMaine]
U Melbourne (Australia)
U Michigan
U N.Carolina-Chapel Hill [UNC-CH]
U N.Carolina-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School [UNC-CH-KF]
U N.Carolina-Wilmington
U of Southern California
U So.Carolina-Moore School of Business [S.Carolina-MSB]
U South Florida [USF]
U Texas-Austin
U Virginia
U Warwick (UK)
U Winnipeg + other Manitoba
U Wisconsin-Madison [UWisc-Madison]
U Wisconsin-Whitewater [Wisconsin-Whitewater]
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem)
Wake Forest University Medical School
Washington University-St Louis [WUSTL]
WU Vienna U of Econ&Business (Austria)
ZhongShan U (Sun-Yat-Sen U) Lingnan college