Data to flood under the Atlantic

By Tom Wilkie

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has boosted its high-speed research communications network by extending 100G connectivity across the Atlantic. The new capabilities will improve network speeds between US research sites and European facilities in readiness for big data transfers from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, near Geneva Switzerland.

The DoE’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) has deployed four new high-speed transatlantic links to giving researchers at US national laboratories and universities ultra-fast access to scientific data not only from the LHC but from other research sites in Europe.

ESnet’s transatlantic extension will deliver a total capacity of 340 gigabits-per-second (Gbps), and serve dozens of scientific collaborations. To maximise the resiliency of the new infrastructure, ESnet equipment in Europe will be interconnected by dedicated 100 Gbps links from the pan-European networking organisation Géant.

ESnet is funded by the DOE’s Office of Science, and managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It provides advanced networking capabilities and tools to support US national laboratories, experimental facilities, and supercomputing centres.

Among the first to benefit from the network extension will be high-energy physicists conducting research at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle collider. DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory — major U.S. computing centres for the ATLAS and CMS experiments, respectively — will make use of the links as soon as they are tested and commissioned.

ESnet Director Greg Bell said: ‘Particle physicists have been pushing the boundaries of networking technology for decades, and they will make use of our new extension almost immediately. Very soon, other data-intensive fields will benefit as well. We expect to see significant network traffic across the Atlantic from the astrophysics, materials science, genomics, and climate science communities.’

David Foster is deputy head of CERN’s IT Department and is responsible for international network strategy. He remarked: ‘The LHC will produce an ever-increasing amount of data throughout its life, and the ability to distribute this on a global scale is the key to its analysis. Close collaboration between Caltech and CERN, led by Harvey Newman, created the US LHCNet transatlantic networking capabilities for US physicists. The European extension of ESnet will continue this work and provide increased levels of capacity to explore new approaches to analysing LHC data.’

Because most large scientific collaborations are international in scale, undersea cables are especially important for research networks such as ESnet, and national networks around the world have been collaborating to test high-speed undersea connections for the past 18 months. Last year, six organisations (ESnet, Internet2 and Canarie in North America, with Surfnet, Nordunet and Géant in Europe) deployed the world’s first 100 Gbps research link across the Atlantic. More recently, New Zealand’s Reannz deployed an experimental 100 Gbps link across the Pacific.

ESnet installed its first European network node at CERN in mid-September, and is now deploying other equipment necessary to bring the first link online. The plan is for all links to be commissioned and in production by January 2015. The LHC is expected to resume operations next spring, at which point it will be generating significantly more scientific data every day.

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