Data transmission moves at ten times the previous speed

In the latter part of December, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) users will be able to exchange data with other labs around the world at a substantially higher rate. The new Energy Sciences Network (ESnet5) will boost the lab’s connection speed from 10 to a screamingly fast 100 gigabits per second (Gbps). In other words, it’s 25 times faster than your cellular 4G network.

Since ORNL’s new supercomputer, Titan, is 10 times faster than its predecessor, Jaguar, connection speeds need to be 10 times faster as well, explained Jim Rogers, director of operations for ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences.

“The network’s ten-times increase in capacity is not only a good, logical step from a networking technology perspective,” he said, “but it ends up being a good, balanced perspective for getting us ready to support the user community on Titan.”

Managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ESnet5, or simply ESnet, began in 2009 as a Department of Energy test bed known as the Advanced Network Initiative, or ANI—a task to develop the first 100 Gbps network for science.

Not only do faster machines need faster networks; scientific discoveries increasingly come from collaborations among laboratories. It is becoming increasingly essential to share resources among contributing labs to get the fastest solutions to today’s daunting problems.

Rogers noted that data needs are also driven by facilities such as ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS).

“They’re doing things at SNS where they’re going to need to grab large amounts of data from those experiments,” Rogers said, “and there will be a huge need to ship that stuff out.”

SNS is just one of many facilities at ORNL churning out massive amounts of data. The lab also acts as a repository within the Earth Systems Grid—a network of supercomputers that hold roughly 100 terabytes of climate data (and growing), from which researchers around the globe can send and share data for climate change research.

The network continues to see immense growth. In the last decade alone, ESnet has connected over 40 national laboratories and many universities, all sharing a wealth of ideas and information.

“We [ORNL] have always participated at the leading edge. We’ve always had the largest possible pipe to the network to support our users,” said Rogers. “And now the 100 Gbps network is an inherent capability that is available to everyone here.”—by Jeremy Rumsey