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Researchers Set Internet Record

Researchers are finding new ways to tap all that excess capacity lying in the ground and send it over longer distances.

For the second time in six months, a team of researchers has broken the Internet2 Land Speed Record. The new record set last week was for transmitting 6.7 gigabytes of data across roughly 10,000 kilometers (more than 6,800 miles) of network at a constant bit rate of about 2 Gbit/s. This latest record, which hasn’t been officially verified yet, is roughly 2.5 times faster than the previous record, which transmitted the same amount of data over the same distance at 923 Mbit/s.

The record-setting team consisted of members from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

This is the second time researchers from SLAC and Caltech have broken the record. The team last November also consisted of researchers from Nationaal Instituut voor Kernfysica en Hoge-Energiefysica (NIKHEF) and the Faculty of Science of the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA).

This hero demonstration should not be confused with pure optical transmission tests from research facilities like Bell Labs (see Bell Labs Busts 40G Barrier). While other researchers have demonstrated transmitting light over similar distances at speeds much higher than 2 Gbit/s, the Internet2 Land Speed breakthrough test demonstrates the end-to-end transmission of an application.

Typical Internet applications can run between 200 and 300 Mbit/s today, says R. Les Cottrell, assistant director of SLAC computer services and one of the primary researchers on the project. Some researchers have demonstrated transmitting data at similar speeds over similar distances in a lab environment. But this event was performed in a live production network using commercially available equipment.

“It’s not a trivial thing to build a high-speed network that is reliable and fast,” says David Newman, president of Network Test, an independent testing facility. “What’s key here is that they were able to demonstrate this in a real network. That is an important achievement, but I don’t see any commercial applications for this anytime soon.”

Cottrell says that his team’s data needs are increasing by a factor of two per year. “What we have available to us is a good match today,” he says. “But in three and a half years we will need to transmit 10 terabytes of data per day.”

During the test, researchers were using all the bandwidth that was available to them. They were limited by the 2.5-Gbit/s link that connected Geneva and Chicago. Cottrell says the next step is to use all 10-Gbit/s links in the test. But he says that there are other constraints that could make getting to this next level difficult.

“Current PC technology is beginning to run out of computing power to drive the link,” he says. “Commercially available network interface cards aren't even available at 10 Gbit/s today.”

But this, too, is changing. Earlier this week, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) announced a lineup of new Gigabit products that will help push the envelope in terms of speed at the desktop and drive adoption of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet in data centers (see Intel's Ga-Ga for GigE and 10-Gigabit Ethernet).

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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