Energy turns on link to Internet2

ESnet

The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory officially threw the switch Aug. 14 to connect part of the federal government's next-generation Internet initiative to the university-run Internet2.

The high-speed network connection from the Energy Sciences Network, or ESnet, will transmit data between the lab and universities on the Southern Crossroads network at up to 20 times faster than a typical Internet connection. This means that files that previously took hours to download, could take only seconds, according to officials from Oak Ridge.

The ESnet connection will be made through the Chattanooga, Tenn., "offramp" created by Oak Ridge and IBM Corp. last year.

ESnet, which is supported by Qwest Communications International Inc., is one of several high-performance research networks across government included in the Next Generation Internet program, now called the Large Scale Networking program. Other networks, supported by other vendors, are run by agencies including NASA, the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation.

The high-speed Internet backbone is necessary for many scientific research initiatives that transmit huge data, voice and video files. Researchers at Oak Ridge said they expected to see the new connection have an immediate impact on several projects — including a $20 million study into how oceans will affect the Earth's climate in the future — that need the increased transmission speeds to keep up with the computing power used.

The Large Scale Networking and Internet2 programs are research projects themselves, testing the limits of the next version of Internet Protocol, IPv6.

"The network forms a test bed that will serve as the basis for network research and development that will carry DOE's computational mission forward for the next five to 10 years," Thomas Zacharia, associate lab director of the Computing and Computational Sciences Director at Oak Ridge, said in a statement.

"Soon we will need to transport petabyte-size files, and this network and the research it enables will be crucial," he said.

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