What is the Alabama Research & Education Network?

  • The Alabama Research and Education Network (AREN) is the statewide managed network connecting its clients to the Internet and to Alabama supercomputer resources. AREN currently consists of a multiple ring, 10G Ethernet based network connecting major hub sites in Huntsville (2), Birmingham (2), Montgomery (2), Atlanta, Troy, Dallas, Dothan, and Mobile.
  • Approximately 225 client institutions are connected to AREN, including all public universities and colleges, the state's community colleges, several state government agenies, some public libraries, and approximately 137 public K-12 school systems. For those universities which have an alternate primary Internet service provider, AREN functions as a secondary ISP for local traffic and the primary route for traffic within the state.

Who manages AREN?

  • The Alabama Supercomputer Authority is a state-funded corporation founded in 1989 to operate the Alabama Supercomputer Center and the Alabama Research and Education Network. This organization provides supercomputing and advanced networking resources to Alabama's colleges, universities, and K-12 schools, providing Internet connectivity and faciliating research in advanced scientific and engineering disciplines.
  • We are directly funded from the Alabama Educational Trust Fund, and we support educational network initiatives statewide. Services are provided through a professional services and facilities management contractor, CSRA.

What is the AREN Core Infrastructure?

The Alabama Research and Education Network (AREN) has brought Internet connectivity to schools, universities, libraries, government entities, and other institutions in Alabama since the early 1990s. In the early days, AREN was able to serve all clients with a single T1 (1.5Mbps) connection to the Internet. This provided access for e-mail and the World Wide Web (WWW), which were just becoming popular.

With each year came new developments in technology. As needs grew, so did AREN. Today, email and WWW are household terms. Technologies such as multimedia streaming are more prevalent and contribute to increased demand.  In addition, we are seeing a new paradigm develop with the deployment of laptops and iPads as part of the one-to-one initiatives.

Internet

As mentioned earlier, AREN started with a single T1 connection to the Internet. To ensure continued excellent performance for AREN clients, AREN's Internet access has grown from 1.5Mbps to 24Gbps of Commodity Internet.  In addition, AREN has access to 10G of Research and Education specific Internet access (I2, National Lambda Rail, etc.) provided via our partnership with Southern Crossroads (SoX). 

Statewide Backbone

The AREN backbone consists 11 network nodes (fielding AREN clients and/or providing Internet egress) interconnected with multiple 10G Ethernet circuits. 

AREN backbone Diagram

Consider the following scenarios:

  • If the Internet connection in Atlanta fails, the backbone provides a life-line to the alternate Internet egress connection in Dallas.
  • The Governor's distance learning initiative is allowing K-12 students across the state to take courses from teachers in other parts of the state using AREN. The bandwidth of the backbone allows all of AREN's clients a great deal of capacity for in-state traffic. The backbone fully supports the Quality of Service (QoS) technology needed to provide good voice and video connections for K-12 and other clients on the network.
  • The backbone would require multiple simultaneous failures to isolate any of the 11 network nodes.

As you can see, the statewide backbone has many benefits.

From 1.5Mbps to 24Gbps, AREN has come a long way since the original T1 connection to the Internet. AREN continues to provide quality Internet and networking services for all clients, whether sending an email or using live video to take high school physics.

If you are an AREN client and would like more details about our core infrastructure, please contact our Network Support Manager, Ray Jacoby at 334-242-0132. You can also reach us by calling the helpdesk at 1-800-338-8320 or emailing us at helpdesk@asc.edu.

What is included in typical AREN service?

  • Internet and AREN Connectivity
  • Required hardware
  • Installation
  • Domain Name Service (DNS) registration
  • IP/host addresses
  • Managed network monitoring and support
  • Help desk and troubleshooting, 24 hours/day, 7 days/week
  • Toll-free 800 line for support calls
  • Connectivity to ASA supercomputing resources

What statewide network services does ASA provide?

  • The AREN backbone, linking the state from Huntsville to Mobile, is comprised of segments. Internet access is provided to the connection in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.
  • Our network is monitored and managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from our network operations center located at the Alabama Supercomputer Center in Huntsville.

How do we get a quote for our school system?

If your organization is interested in learning more about the Alabama Research and Education Network, please have your Technology Coordinator, superintendent or designated officer send a written request on official letterhead to our business office.

ASA staff will discuss your network needs with your local staff and will complete a technical review and needs assessment at no charge. This information will be used to prepare a quote for network connectivity.

Why does ASA/AREN have two names?

The Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) is the governing agency created in 1989 and funded by the Alabama Legislature.

ASA manages two primary projects: the Alabama Supercomputer Center (ASC) in Huntsville and the Alabama Research and Education Network (AREN), which was formerly known as the Alabama Supercomputer Network (ASN). ASA's Board of Directors voted to change the name of our network to Alabama Research and Education Network in 1995 to better reflect our service to the state's education community.

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