Cancer researchers solve bandwidth problem

At work on the next stage of the Human Genome Project, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have a pressing need for broader bandwidth. They are seeking ways to use the big gene map to find a cure for breast cancer.

To understand the molecular basis of breast cancer, which is just one piece of the gene map, scientists exchange ultra-high-resolution images of human breast cancer cells across the network. For them, Gigabit Ethernet over copper is a godsend.

"To make this project possible, we need the higher speed networking," said Damir Sudar, deputy division head of the Life Sciences Division at the lab.

The lab's information technology managers decided that the lower price of Gigabit Ethernet over copper gave it a clear edge over using fiber. "It's getting to a point where [copper Network Interface Cards] are now a commodity selling for less than $100," said Mike Bennett, senior network engineer at the lab, which is funded by the Energy Department.

As part of the upgrade, the lab is installing a Cisco Catalyst 3500 switch with 10 copper ports and two fiber ports in the network core, or wiring closet. Then it is deploying three SysKonnect Inc. SK-9821 copper NICs in the department's Sun Microsystems Inc. UltraSparc and Linux servers, and Intel Corp. Pro 1000T NICs in the desktop machines.

Sudar provides an idea of how much data is exchanged across the network. "The generation of a complete map of all gene expression patterns requires the imaging and analysis of 20,000 3-D images, each 200 megabytes in size," he said.

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