Ethernet Speed Augmented by Berkeley Lab

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Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shattered barriers in data transfer last week, with the development of a connection capable of transferring huge amounts of information equivalent to the mathematical calculation of colliding black holes.

Projects that require the transfer of giant stores of information need connections with high speeds. Before the development of the faster connection, a bottleneck slowed scientific progress.

The discovery makes data transfer of major research projects such as the Human Genome Project possible, speeding scientific progress.

Five members of the "Gig E Team" at Lawrence Berkeley lab created an ethernet connection of 10 gigabits per second-superior to the data transfer speed of a common T-1 internet connection by a factor of 50,000.

The new technology can transfer a tremendous amount of data between two "clusters"-collections of machines assembled together into one larger and faster computer.

"This is ten times faster than the fastest ethernet technology available," said John Shalf, a member of the team.

To demonstrate a real-world application of faster ethernet speed, the team graphically simulated gravity waves emitted from two colliding black holes. They transferred the data to another cluster at a rate of 10.6 gigabits per second.

Without the ethernet speed, the transfer of such a large amount of information would have been much more time consuming.

The new data transfer capability may be used for scientific research that requires the transfer of massive amounts of data.

"The largest need for increased capacity is, at this time, in the world of scientific computing where large supercomputers generate terabytes of data day by day," said Wes Bethel, a scientist at the lab.

The new connection may make the widespread dispersion and sharing of project results possible.

The Human Genome Project, which hopes to identify all of the estimated 30,000 genes and sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA, may use the new ethernet speed to transfer important data between research institutions.

"All the scientific people are really excited about it," said Chip Smith, a member of the 10 Gig E team.

The technology is not marketed for business or personal use because the hardware required for the connection is too costly.

"Grandma won't be getting a 10 gigabit drop in her house anytime soon," Bethel said.

Most universities and research centers may reap the new technology's benefits, however.

"The number of applications is virtually limitless-think of connecting lots of data," Bethel said. "10 Gigabits Ethernet is one link in that series of communication channels between the data and the person. It just tends to be closer to the data, than to the person."


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