|Founder||"Michigan State University, "University of Michigan, and "Wayne State University|
|Type||Non-profit member governed|
|Michigan Educational Research Information Triad|
Merit Network, Inc., is a nonprofit member-governed organization providing high-performance computer networking and related services to "educational, "government, "health care, and "nonprofit organizations, primarily in "Michigan. Created in 1966, Merit operates the longest running regional computer network in the United States.
Created in 1966 as the Michigan Educational Research Information Triad by "Michigan State University (MSU), the "University of Michigan (U-M), and "Wayne State University (WSU), Merit was created to investigate resource sharing by connecting the "mainframe computers at these three Michigan "public "research universities. Merit's initial three node packet-switched computer network was operational in October 1972 using custom hardware based on "DEC PDP-11 minicomputers and software developed by the Merit staff and the staffs at the three universities.
Over the next dozen years the initial network grew as new services such as dial-in terminal support, remote job submission, remote printing, and file transfer were added; as gateways to the national and international "Tymnet, "Telenet, and "Datapac networks were established, as support for the "X.25 and "TCP/IP protocols was added; as additional computers such as WSU's "MVS system and the UM's electrical engineering's "VAX running "UNIX were attached; and as new universities became Merit members.
Merit's involvement in national networking activities started in the mid-1980s with connections to the national supercomputing centers and work on the 56 kbit/s "National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET), the forerunner of today's "Internet. From 1987 until April 1995, Merit re-engineered and managed the NSFNET backbone service.
MichNet, Merit's regional network in Michigan was attached to NSFNET and in the early 1990s Merit began extending "the Internet" throughout Michigan, offering both direct connect and dial-in services, and upgrading the statewide network from 56 kbit/s to 1.5 Mbit/s, and on to 45, 155, 622 Mbit/s, and eventually 1 and 10 Gbit/s. In 2003 Merit began its transition to a facilities based network, using "fiber optic facilities that it shares with its members, that it purchases or leases under long term agreements, or that it builds.
In addition to network connectivity services, Merit offers a number of related services within Michigan and beyond, including: "Internet2 connectivity, "VPN, "Network monitoring, "Voice over IP (VOIP), "Cloud storage, "E-mail, "Domain Name, "Network Time, "VMware and "Zimbra software licensing, "Colocation, Michigan Cyber Range cybersecurity courses, and "professional development seminars, workshops, classes, conferences, and meetings.
The Michigan Educational Research Information Triad (MERIT) was formed in the fall of 1966 by "Michigan State University (MSU), "University of Michigan (U-M), and "Wayne State University (WSU). More often known as the Merit Computer Network or simply Merit, it was created to design and implement a computer network connecting the "mainframe computers at the universities.
In the fall of 1969, after funding for the initial development of the network had been secured, Bertram Herzog was named director for MERIT. Eric Aupperle was hired as senior engineer, and was charged with finding hardware to make the network operational. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the State of Michigan provided the initial funding for the network.
In June 1970, the Applied Dynamics Division of "Reliance Electric in "Saline, Michigan was contracted to build three Communication Computers or CCs. Each would consist of a "Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) "PDP-11 computer, dataphone interfaces, and interfaces that would attach them directly to the mainframe computers. The cost was to be slightly less than the $300,000 ($1,890,500, adjusted for inflation) originally budgeted. Merit staff wrote the software that ran on the CCs, while staff at each of the universities wrote the mainframe software to interface to the CCs.
The first completed connection linked the "IBM S/360-67 mainframe computers running the "Michigan Terminal System at WSU and U-M, and was publicly demonstrated on December 14, 1971. The MSU node was completed in October 1972, adding a "CDC 6500 mainframe running "Scope/Hustler. The network was officially dedicated on May 15, 1973.
In 1974, Herzog returned to teaching in the University of Michigan's Industrial Engineering Department, and Aupperle was appointed as director.
Use of the all uppercase name "MERIT" was abandoned in favor of the mixed case "Merit".
The first network connections were host to host interactive connections which allowed person to remote computer or local computer to remote computer interactions. To this, terminal to host connections, "batch connections (remote job submission, remote printing, batch file transfer), and interactive file copy were added. And, in addition to connecting to host computers over custom hardware interfaces, the ability to connect to hosts or other networks over groups of "asynchronous ports and via "X.25 were added.
Merit interconnected with "Telenet (later SprintNet) in 1976 to give Merit users dial-in access from locations around the United States. Dial-in access within the U.S. and internationally was further expanded via Merit's interconnections to "Tymnet, ADP's Autonet, and later still the IBM Global Network as well as Merit's own expanding network of dial-in sites in Michigan, "New York City, and "Washington, D.C.
In 1978, "Western Michigan University (WMU) became the fourth member of Merit (prompting a name change, as the acronym Merit no longer made sense as the group was no longer a triad).
To expand the network, the Merit staff developed new hardware interfaces for the Digital PDP-11 based on "printed circuit technology. The new system became known as the Primary Communications Processor (PCP), with the earliest PCPs connecting a "PDP-10 located at WMU and a "DEC VAX running "UNIX at U-M's "Electrical Engineering department.
A second hardware technology initiative in 1983 produced the smaller Secondary Communication Processors (SCP) based on "DEC "LSI-11 processors. The first SCP was installed at the "Michigan Union in "Ann Arbor, creating UMnet, which extended Merit's network connectivity deeply into the U-M campus.
In 1987, Merit, "IBM and "MCI submitted a winning proposal to NSF to implement a new "NSFNET backbone network. The new NSFNET backbone network service began 1 July 1988. It interconnected supercomputing centers around the country at 1.5 megabits per second ("T1), 24 times faster than the 56 kilobits-per-second speed of the previous network. The NSFNET backbone grew to link scientists and educators on university campuses nationwide and connect them to their counterparts around the world.
In September 1990 in anticipation of the "NSFNET T3 upgrade and the approaching end of the 5-year NSFNET cooperative agreement, Merit, IBM, and MCI formed "Advanced Network and Services (ANS), a new non-profit corporation with a more broadly based Board of Directors than the Michigan-based Merit Network. Under its cooperative agreement with NSF, Merit remained ultimately responsible for the operation of NSFNET, but subcontracted much of the engineering and operations work to ANS.
In 1991 the NSFNET backbone service was expanded to additional sites and upgraded to a more robust 45 Mbit/s ("T3) based network. The new T3 backbone was named ANSNet and provided the physical infrastructure used by Merit to deliver the NSFNET Backbone Service.
On April 30, 1995 the NSFNET project came to an end, when the NSFNET backbone service was decommissioned and replaced by a new Internet architecture with commercial "ISPs interconnected at "Network Access Points provided by multiple providers across the country.
During the 1980s, Merit Network grew to serve eight member universities, with "Oakland University joining in 1985 and "Central Michigan University, "Eastern Michigan University, and "Michigan Technological University joining in 1987.
In 1990, Merit's board of directors formally changed the organization's name to Merit Network, Inc., and created the name MichNet to refer to Merit's statewide network. The board also approved a staff proposal to allow organizations other than publicly supported universities, referred to as affiliates, to be served by MichNet without prior board approval.
1992 saw major upgrades of the MichNet backbone to use "Cisco "routers in addition to the PDP-11 and LSI-11 based PCPs and SCPs. This was also the start of relentless upgrades to higher and higher speeds, first from 56 kbit/s to "T1 (1.5 Mbit/s) followed by multiple T1s (3.0 to 10.5 Mbit/s), "T3 (45 Mbit/s), "OC3c (155 Mbit/s), "OC12c (622 Mbit/s), and eventually one and ten "gigabits (1000 to 10,000 Mbit/s).
In 1993 Merit's first "Network Access Server (NAS) using "RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) was deployed. The NASs supported dial-in access separate from the Merit PCPs and SCPs.
In 1993 Merit started what would become an eight-year phase out of its aging PCP and SCP technology. By 1998 the only PCPs still in service were supporting Wayne State University's "MTS mainframe host. During their remarkably long twenty-year life cycle the number of PCPs and SCPs in service reached a high of roughly 290 in 1991, supporting a total of about 13,000 asynchronous ports and numerous "LAN and "WAN gateways.
In 1994 the Merit Board endorsed a plan to expand the MichNet shared dial-in service, leading to a rapid expansion of the Internet dial-in service over the next several years. In 1994 there were 38 shared dial-in sites. By 1996 there were 131 shared dial-in sites and more than 92% of Michigan residents could reach the Internet with a local phone call. And by the end of 2001 there were 10,733 MichNet shared dial-in lines in over 200 Michigan cities plus "New York City, "Washington, D.C., and "Windsor, Ontario, Canada. As an outgrowth of this work, in 1997, Merit created the "Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) Consortium.
During 1994 an expanded K-12 outreach program at Merit helped lead the formation of six regional K-12 groups known as Hubs. The Hubs and Merit applied for and were awarded funding from the Ratepayer fund, which as part of a settlement of an earlier "Ameritech of Michigan ratepayer overcharge, had been established by "Michigan Public Service Commission to further the K-12 community’s network connectivity.
During the 1990s, Merit added "Grand Valley State University (1994), "Northern Michigan University (1994), "Lake Superior State University (1997), and "Ferris State University (1998) as members. By 1999, Merit had 163 affiliate members, with 401 attachments from 353 separate locations.
Merit was involved in a number of projects in cooperation with organizations throughout Michigan, including:
In 1994, as the NSFNET project was drawing to a close, Merit organized the meetings for the "North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG). NANOG evolved from the "NSFNET "Regional-Techs" meetings, where technical staff from the regional networks met to discuss operational issues of common concern with each other and with the Merit engineering staff. At the February 1994 regional techs meeting in San Diego, the group revised its charter to include a broader base of network service providers, and subsequently adopted NANOG as its new name.
MichNet obtained its initial commodity Internet access, a T3 (45 Mbit/s), from the commercial ISP, internetMCI.
In 1996 Merit became an affiliate member of "Internet2, in 1997 established its first connection to the NSF "very high-speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS), and in February 1999 began serving as Michigan's "GigaPOP for Internet2 service.
Following the NSFNET project Merit lead a number of activities with a national or international scope, including:
In 2000, Merit spun off two "for-profit companies: NextHop Technologies, which developed and marketed GateD routing software, and Interlink Networks, which specialized in authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) software.
In January 2005 Merit and Internet2 moved into the new Michigan Information Technology Center (MITC) in Ann Arbor.
In 2006, Dr. Donald J. Welch was named president and CEO of Merit Network, Inc.
In July 2007, Merit decommissioned its "dial-up services.
During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s Merit operated what is known as a ""value-added network" where individual data circuits were leased on a relatively short term basis (one to three or sometimes five years) from traditional telecommunications providers such as "Ameritech, "GTE, "Sprint, and "MCI and assembled into a larger network by adding routers and other equipment. This worked well for many years, but as data rates continued to increase from kilobits, to megabits, to gigabits the cost of leasing the higher speed data circuits became significant. As a result, the alternative of building its network using ""dark fiber" that Merit owned or leased on a relatively longer term basis (10, 20, or more years) under what are known as ""Indefeasible Rights of Use" (IRU) as well as using or sharing fiber that is owned by its members became attractive.
Merit's statewide fiber-optic network strategy began to take shape when:
In July 2008, Merit began upgrading its core backbone network to 10 gigabits and installing five new "Juniper MX480 routers. This upgrade was completed in May 2009 with seven backbone nodes in Grand Rapids, East Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Chicago (2) all operating at 10 Gbit/s. Also during May 2009 Merit replaced its four 1 Gbit/s links to the commodity Internet with two 10 Gbit/s links over diverse paths to two different Tier 1 providers. And in October 2009 the links from Ann Arbor to Jackson and from Jackson and East Lansing were upgraded to 10 Gbit/s.
In January 2010, Merit and its partners, "ACD.net; Lynx Network Group, LLC; and TC3Net; learned that their REACH-3MC (Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Healthcare - Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative) proposal had been awarded ~$33.3M in grants and loans from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), part of the "federal stimulus package. REACH-3MC will build a 1,017-mile (1,637 km) optical fiber extension into rural and underserved communities in 32 counties in Michigan's lower peninsula.
In August 2010, Merit and its REACH-3MC partners were selected to receive US$69.6M in a second round of federal stimulus funding to build an additional 1,270 miles (2,040 km) of optical fiber in the northern lower peninsula and upper peninsula of Michigan and extending into "Wisconsin.
At "NANOG's 50th meeting in Atlanta in October 2010, members of the NANOG community supported a charter amendment to transition the hosting of NANOG following the February 2011 NANOG meeting to NewNOG, a newly formed non-profit.
On February 16, 2012, Merit's President and CEO, Donald Welch was honored as an Innovator in Infrastructure and "Champion of Change" during a ceremony that took place at the White House.
In August 2012, Merit announced that the first site of the "Michigan Cyber Range would be installed at Eastern Michigan University. Merit hosts and operates the Michigan Cyber Range, a cybersecurity learning environment that, like a test track or a firing range, enables individuals and organizations to conduct "live fire" exercises, simulations that test the detection and reaction skills of participants in a variety of situations. Merit is partnering with the "State of Michigan, "Eastern Michigan University, "Ferris State University, and others to provide this invaluable learning environment, which trains students and IT professionals to be better prepared for cyberattacks and how to react to Internet security situations.
In January 2013, the Michigan Cyber Range began a collaboration arrangement with "Mile2, a developer and provider of vendor neutral professional certifications for the cyber security industry. Mile2 provides course materials, instructors and certification exams to the Michigan Cyber Range. Mile2 is recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) as an Information Assurance (IA) Courseware Institution. Mile2 is NSA CNSS-accredited as well as NIST and NICCS mapped.
On April 8, 2013, Merit announced that round 1 of REACH-3MC construction was complete with fiber-optic cable along the 1,017-mile (1,637 km) network extension through rural and under served areas in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, including all 55 fiber-optic lateral connections to Merit Members from the middle-mile infrastructure. Portions of the fiber-optic network extension had been in use prior to the completion of round 1.
In May 2013, Merit hosted its 15th annual Merit Member Conference  and its first annual Michigan Cybersecurity Industry Summit in Ann Arbor.
In June 2013, Merit honored as both a 2013 Computerworld Honors Laureate and 21st Century Achievement Award Winner for its REACH-3MC fiber-optic network project. Merit Network CEO and President Don Welch was honored at a gala celebration in Washington, D.C.
During the summer of 2013, Merit’s Michigan Cyber Range debuted its cybersecurity training environment, Alphaville. The platform was used for training exercises, including a red team-blue team event conducted with the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium (WMCSC).
In September 2013, Merit launched Merit Secure Sandbox, a secure environment that can be used by organizations for educational purposes, cybersecurity exercises, and software testing. In September, the Michigan Cyber Range also added a SCADA component to Alphaville.
In July 2014, Merit Network and "WiscNet lit a new fiber-optic connection between Powers, Michigan; Marinette and Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Chicago, Illinois. The new 10 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) fiber-optic connection replaced two 1 Gbit/s circuits, providing greater capacity and speed between the Upper Peninsula and Chicago.
In October 2014, Merit completed the REACH-3MC fiber-optic infrastructure project, which built fiber-optic infrastructure across Michigan and in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Merit connected 141 community anchor institutions, which includes schools, libraries, health care, government, and public safety. 70 additional organizations were also connected to the network by constructing last-mile fiber to the network. Each connection was a minimum of 1 gigabit-per-second (Gbps), providing broadband speeds to previously unserved or underserved parts of Michigan. Merit completed 2,287 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure, which is the equivalent of travelling from Ann Arbor to Orlando, Florida.
On April 30, 2015, Dr. Eric Aupperle passed away. Dr. Aupperle joined Merit Computer Network in 1969 as project leader. Eric was appointed director of Merit in 1974, became president in 1988, and retired 2001.
In August 2015, Joseph Sawasky, the chief information officer and associate vice president of computing and information technology at "Wayne State University, was selected as the president and CEO of Merit Network.
In October 2015, Merit selected Jason Brown as the organization's first chief information security officer (CISO). The position was created as part of an ongoing mission to strengthen Merit Network’s infrastructure, data and Member institutions from potential cyberattack.
In March 2016, the organization launched the Merit Commons, a social collaboration environment for its Member community. The secure, social portal enables Members to communicate and collaborate in real time with organic message streams, much like Facebook or Twitter.
At the annual Merit Member Conference in May 2016, Merit celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala that included dignitaries, former staff, employees and Merit supporters. During a panel discussion, Doug Van Houweling from the "University of Michigan and Steve Wolff from "Internet2 provided a glimpse into the early days of Merit, the complex NSFNET project and how the technology and network protocols created by Merit's engineers influenced the internet. David Behen, chief information officer (CIO) for the "State of Michigan, presented an honor from Governor Rick Snyder to Joe Sawasky on behalf of Merit Network, recognizing the organization's historic achievements.
During 2016, Merit added new publicly-accessible hubs of the Michigan Cyber Range in Southeast Michigan. Cyber Range Hubs opened inside the Velocity Center at Macomb-Oakland University in Sterling Heights on March 18 and at Pinckney Community High School on December 7. Each location provides certification courses, cybersecurity training exercises and product hardening/testing through a direct connection to the Michigan Cyber Range.
Today, in addition to network connectivity, Merit offers: