DOE tests tool to speed priority Internet traffic

Howell said there are likely to be many federal customers for the service as it becomes commercially available. "If you're trying to do a calculation and you want to see it run in real time, you need very high bandwidth to do that,'' she said. ~The technology is especially well-suited for electronic commerce, for real-time applications such as telemedicine and biomedical research, which cannot afford disruptions, and for voice and video applications that consume massive quantities of bandwidth. ~"If you have a resource that is scarce, you have to come up with a way of allocating it," said Jim Leighton, manager of the Energy Sciences Network and the Networking and Telecommunications Department at Berkeley. ~High-speed communications ability is essential for researchers at more than 30 DOE national laboratories that share access to some of the nation's most advanced research facilities, such as remote electron microscopes and supercomputing facilities, he said. "The resources are fairly large and expensive, and it is critical that you get your research done in the amount of time allotted," Leighton said. ~Telecommunications consultant Warren Suss said the concept could be "extremely significant" because of its potential to allow easier transmission of voice traffic and facsimiles and because it could help agencies collaborate online. ~Today, Internet users face the choice of paying rock-bottom prices or stepping up to a high-priced service, he said. "This technology sounds like it offers a better gradient in terms of cost so you don't have to make the commitment of buying a big pipe for the limited number of applications that need speed." ~Brett Berlin, a consultant who advises the Defense Department on high-performance computing issues, said priority Internet services would be useful for military applications, such as testing weapons systems, which in the future is expected to be performed using simulations rather than physical prototypes. ~Jim Massa, director of federal operations at Cisco Systems Inc., which provided the routers and the priority-recognition software, said Internet users are eager for the smart networks. ~"People are struggling with the idea of a bigger pipe," Massa said. "The industry has proved that the pipe is never big enough."After more than a decade of research, the Energy Department this month successfully tested a technology that could allow Internet users— especially federal researchers— to speed delivery of high-priority traffic by bypassing the massive congestion endemic to the public network.

During the test, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley and Argonne national laboratories sent two video streams marked as high-priority traffic over a congested path across the country while bypassing traffic not marked for quick passage.

For users willing to pay for premium Internet access but who do not want to invest in the traditional method of purchasing "bigger pipes," the technology could provide a solution to Internet traffic problems. Kay Howell, director of the National Coordination Office for Computing, Information and Communications, compared the technology to priority mail services. "You can buy the bandwidth you need at the time you need it,'' she said, instead of having to pay for large pipes that would be used at their full capacity only some of the time.

The cost of the new service will be determined by Internet service providers offering it.

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