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Internet speed record set

Researchers are pushing the envelope in data transmission speeds as they look toward building supercomputing grids.

Researchers have set a data transmission record over the Internet2's high-speed backbone.

The record, announced Tuesday at the Spring 2004 Internet2 member meeting in Arlington, Va., was for transmitting data over nearly 11,000 kilometers at an average speed of 6.25 gigabits per second. This is nearly 10,000 times faster than a typical home broadband connection. The network link used to set the record reaches from Los Angeles to Geneva, Switzerland.

Internet2 is a consortium of more than 200 universities working with industry and government to develop next-generation Internet technology. The Internet2's contest, which began in 2000, is open and ongoing, and it tests researchers' ability to build the highest-bandwidth, end-to-end Internet Protocol network.

The new record used IPv4, the current system for Internet addressing, and was set by members from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Geneva-based CERN. The same team had previously set a new mark of 4 gigabits per second over the same distance using IPv6, the next generation of Internet protocols.

"By pushing the envelope of end-to-end networking," Rich Carlson, chairman of the judging panel, said in a statement, "their efforts demonstrate new possibilities for enabling research, teaching, and learning using advanced Internet technology."

While no one expects the average person to need this type of bandwidth anytime soon, the demonstration is important in the research community, where high-capacity links are needed to transfer large amounts of data. Many groups have already begun developing high-speed grids to connect research institutions and laboratories, so that scientists can more efficiently share large volumes of data.

CERN and its partners have already begun building such a network; it's called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Computing Grid. Caltech is involved in building the TeraGrid supercomputing network, which connects the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Argonne National Laboratory, the Caltech Center for Advanced Computing Research and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Energy have shown that researchers in high-energy physics, astrophysics, fusion energy, climatology, bioinformatics and other fields will require networks in the terabit-per-second range within the next decade. As a result, research on these high-speed networks is starting to move into production settings.