High-energy physicists set record for network data transfer
December 14, 2011
At the SuperComputing 2011 (SC11) conference in Seattle during mid-November, the international team transferred data in opposite directions at a combined rate of 186 gigabits per second (Gbps) in a wide-area network circuit. This is equivalent to moving two million gigabytes per day, fast enough to transfer nearly 100,000 full Blu-ray disks — each with a complete movie and all the extras — in a day.
According to the researchers, the achievement will help establish new ways to transport the increasingly large quantities of data that traverse continents and oceans via global networks of optical fibers. These new methods are needed for the next generation of network technology — which allows transfer rates of 40 and 100 Gbps — that will be built in the next couple of years.
“Our group and its partners are showing how massive amounts of data will be handled and transported in the future,” says Harvey Newman, professor of physics and head of the high-energy physics (HEP) team. “Having these tools in our hands allows us to engage in realizable visions others do not have. We can see a clear path to a future others cannot yet imagine with any confidence.”
The fast transfer rate is also crucial for dealing with the tremendous amounts of data coming from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. More than 100 petabytes of data have been processed, distributed, and analyzed, using a global grid of 300 computing and storage facilities located at laboratories and universities around the world, and the data volume is expected to rise a 1,000 times as physicists crank up the collision rates and energies at the LHC.
The key to discovery, the researchers say, is in picking out the rare signals that may indicate new physics discoveries from a sea of potentially overwhelming background noise caused by already understood particle interactions. To do this, individual physicists and small groups located around the world must repeatedly access — and sometimes extract and transport — multiterabyte data sets on demand from petabyte data stores. That’s equivalent to grabbing hundreds of Blu-ray movies all at once from a pool of hundreds of thousands. The HEP team hopes that the demonstrations at SC11 will pave the way towards more effective distribution and use for discoveries of the masses of LHC data.