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Energy Department eyes superfast Ethernet

The federal agency wants to create a 100Gbps Ethernet network to connect its supercomputer centers--and then make it faster still.

Scientists will collaborate with as-yet-unnamed hardware and software vendors to develop a prototype 100Gbps Ethernet network, which will be used to connect U.S. Department of Energy supercomputer centers.

The aim is to develop a network capable of handling 1Tb (terabit) per second, according to Michael Strayer, head of the Department of Energy's office of advanced scientific computing research.

"This network will serve as a pilot for a future network-wide deployment of 100Gbps Ethernet in research and commercial networks, and represents a major step toward the DOE's vision of a 1Tb--1,000 times faster than 1Gb--network interconnecting DOE Office of Science supercomputer centers," Strayer was quoted as saying in a statement.

The network will be used by scientists to share data and research in such areas as climate-change modeling, and for collaborative projects such as the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator. Businesses will benefit as 10Gbps and 1Gbps networks will become more affordable, said the statement.

Ethernet networks normally run at either 100Mbps or 1Gbps, while the standard for the fastest is 40Gbps. Scientists working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will undertake research into the high-speed Ethernet project, which is called the Advanced Networking Initiative.

The U.S. government has pumped millions of dollars into the project. The Energy Department's ESnet, formally known as the Energy Sciences Network, announced Monday that it had received $62 million in funding.

ESnet, which is run from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will put some of the money into new jobs for network and software engineers at Berkeley Lab. However, the bulk of the cash will be used to buy networking equipment and services from providers adjudged to have the necessary infrastructure to support 100Gbps technology.

The funding was allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus package enacted by the Obama administration, designed to aid U.S. economic recovery during the global financial downturn.

Juniper Networks announced the industry's first 100Gbps Ethernet router interface card in June.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.