Researchers set data speed record from US to Europe

A handful of research bodies around the world published record network speed results on Monday, showing a huge boost in the flow of data across both wide area networks and between local systems linked closely together.

Scientists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have all teamed up to set a new record for sending data from the U.S. to Europe. The researchers were able to accomplish the feat, in part, by using new 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) networking cards from Intel Corp. The use of standard Ethernet technology to set the records could help pave the way for improved networks in both corporate data centers and into end users homes, researchers said.

The group was able to send 1T byte of data from Sunnyvale, California, to Geneva at a sustained rate of 2.38Gpbs (gigabits per second) for more than one hour, said Harvey Newman, a professor of physics at Caltech. This speed beats the current record by a factor of 2.5 and is equivalent to the data rate needed to send 200 full length DVD movies in one hour or 1 movie in 18 seconds. The researchers, however, have yet to certify the result with Internet2 -- a consortium of 202 universities working on improving networking technology.

The latest record marks the first time that a single TCP (transmission control protocol) stream has made a transoceanic pass at multi-gigabit per second rates, which signals a milestone for commonly used networking technology, Newman said. The breakthrough helps show what can be accomplished with existing Ethernet technology as opposed to turning to new technologies such as Infiniband, which require some network re-architecting

"Ethernet technologies tend to get cheap, which is very important," Newman said. "We like Ethernet because it has this economic model. Infiniband still looks like a relatively expensive technology that is more storage-oriented."

The researchers are hoping that improved network speeds will open the door for developers to create applications which can take advantage of large bandwidth. Software coders may soon be able to write programs for millions of users linked by high speed networks, Newman said.

"In the future desktops will handle many terabytes of data," Newman said. "This is an early milestone to making this vision happen."

Researchers at Los Alamos National Lab also showed gains in LAN speed performance that could signal another boost for Ethernet over some proprietary interconnect technologies such as those offered by Quadrics Ltd. and Myricom Inc.

Gus Hurwitz and Wu-chun Feng, two researchers in the Research and Development In Advanced Network Technology (RADIANT) team at Los Alamos, were able to transfer 4.02Gbps between two PCs using the new Intel network interface cards. This kind of performance is well above published marks for Myrinet or Quadrics interconnect technology and rivals Infinband as well, according to the researchers.

"I think this opens a whole new set of options for the data center because Ethernet is already in there," Feng said. "You don't have to buy a new infrastructure."

"You will get the absolute best performance with Infiniband right now," Feng said. "But then you are buying the fastest possible networking fabric and getting the Formula One race car. People will have to ask if they want to spend money on that or consider other options."

Intel did its part to achieve the new results with the delivery of its Intel PRO/10GbE LR Server Adapter to the laboratories. This product will be generally available in April at a price of US$7,995.

Intel is expecting corporate customers to pick up the adapter gradually.

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