Academics get superfast Internet

Academia led the way in the late 1960s with the development of the forerunner of the Internet (ARPANET), but this time it has a new network that is slightly quicker.

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Academia led the way in the late 1960s with the development of the forerunner of the Internet (ARPANET), but this time it has a new network that is slightly quicker.

Known as Internet2, it is a non-profit consortium which develops and deploys advanced network applications and technologies for education and high-speed data transfer purposes. The Internet2 network, run by Level 3 Communications, parallels the regular Internet to let universities, corporations and researchers share large amounts of information in real-time.

Until recently, the Internet2 network had a theoretical data transfer speed limit of 10GB/s according to the Associated Press, which was still thousands of times faster than standard home broadband connections. But this week, Internet2 announced that it has raised its ceiling tenfold with the speed increased to a staggering 100GB/s, partly in anticipation of rising demand for capacity when the world’s largest particle collider opens near Geneva next year.

They say the speed boost is down to sending data using 10 different colours, or wavelengths, of light over a single cable. Unfortunately, this infrastructure will not be available to the public for the foreseeable future.

But transfer speeds of this magnitude would allow, for example, a high-quality version of a movie such as The Matrix to be sent in just a few seconds, rather than the 30 seconds or so needed when using the old Internet2. Just for comparison purposes, a typical home broadband line would take several hours to transfer that quantity of data.

The new Internet2 network has now been completed, and its operators have made it possible for researchers to temporarily grab an entire 10Gb/s chunk for specific applications, so that they do not slow down normal Internet operations.

“It’s now possible for a single computer to have a 10Gb connection and we needed to have a way of making sure that those kinds of demanding applications could be served at the same time as all the normal uses,” said Doug Van Houweling, Internet2’s chief executive, quoted in the Associated Press.

An institution typically has one 10Gb/s connection to the 100Gb/s Internet2 backbone for normal Internet usage, along with a second 10Gb/s connection it can tap on demand for specific needs, Van Houweling said.

Looking forward, Internet2 thinks that with some infrastructure upgrades, it can boost capacity to around 400Gb/s in the future.

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