Data speeds up at US Department of Energy

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The US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has taken a major step toward creating one of the world's fastest scientific networks - the Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI), at a cost of $62 million.

'As science becomes increasingly data-driven and global in scale, it's critical that we create an infrastructure that will enable our scientists to collaborate and compete successfully in the search for solutions to some of the world's biggest challenges in energy,' said William F. Brinkman, director of the Office of Science at the US Department of Energy (DOE). 'The Advanced Networking Initiative will help secure and maintain America's scientific pre-eminence and improve the quality of life for all of us.'

Berkeley Lab has signed a subcontracting agreement with Internet2 such that the DOE's Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) staff will work with Internet2 to develop a 100Gbps prototype network, increasing the information-carrying capacity of DOE's present scientific network by several orders of magnitude.

The 100Gbps prototype network is a key step to the DOE's vision of an eventual 1 terabit network that will support thousands of scientists in research ranging from environmental modelling, developing energy solutions, to exploring the fundamental nature of the universe, as well as in accessing data from the Large Hadron Collider.

A portion of the funding also went to the development of a national-scale network testbed, made available to researchers and industry for experiments with new network technologies, protocols and applications to help them get up to speed on the new 100Gbps capability.

To build the national network, Internet2 will use fibre strands on Level 3 Communications' Tier 1 fibre-optic network, a Colorado-based telecommunications firm, and will use optical networking equipment from Ciena Corporation, a Maryland-based provider of network infrastructure solutions. By collaborating on complementary projects, ESnet and Internet2 hope to maximise the value of both the ANI investment and Internet2's own investments.

The 100Gbps prototype network, including hardware and dark fibre, will initially connect three DOE unclassified supercomputing centres: the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Berkeley Lab; Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF); and Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), as well as the Manhattan Landing International Exchange Point (MANLAN). As part of the agreement, the Berkeley Lab has negotiated a 20-year lease on dark fibre capacity to be leveraged for so-called 'disruptive' research, allowing DOE, industry and university researchers to use the facility to investigate new networking technologies and protocols, and effectively locking in the cost of future network infrastructure needs for the next two decades.