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186 Gbps Network Data Transfer Record Set

Eric Ernest 16 Dec 2011
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At last month's SuperComputing 2011 (SC11) conference in Seattle, an international team of scientists was able to send data, over a 100 Gbps bidirectional fiber optic cable, in opposite directions at a combined rate of 186 gigabits per second (Gbps). 

Researchers were able to send data between the University of Victoria Computing Centre located in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle at a transfer rate of 98 Gbps. While at the same time a simultaneous data transfer rate of 88 Gbps was achieved in the opposite direction to produce an overall data rate of 186 Gbps between the two locations.

The team of scientists, from varied backgrounds such as high energy physics, computer science, and network engineering, were led by California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of Victoria, the University of Michigan, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), Florida International University, and other partners.

To put the above mentioned statistics into context, consider that at such speeds one could move around two million gigabytes per day. Alas, such speeds are not meant to be used by regular downloaders, atleast not yet anyway, but will be of tremendous help to scientists working on major projects like the Large Hadron Collider(LHC), who have to deal with the tremendous amounts of data coming from the particle accelerator. This transfer rate record assumes even more importance given that as scientists "crank up the collision rates and energies at the LHC", the volume of data produced will "rise a thousand fold".

This transfer rate is not as impressive when compared to some of the higher rates achieved in earlier instances, such as the 26 terabits per second achieved earlier in May of this year - it has to be noted that such higher transfer rate achieving tests would have been reached under certain laboratory conditions and the setup for such an test could cost a substantial amount, making them rather impractical to implement in the real world.  On the other hand, this latest transfer rate was achieved over a commercially available 100Gbps link, thus making it possible for such transfer rates to be replicated in the real world. 

As the Caltech press release aptly states, "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." 

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