Researchers will take aim at the British Lan speed record next week as they put the UK's first dedicated optical network for research through its paces.
The infrastructure, dubbed UKLight, is a high bandwidth optical network linked to similar networks around the world.
It is designed to enable researchers to transfer far greater amounts of data directly from one remote location to another than would be feasible with conventional packet-switched networks.
Installation of the first phase was completed this summer when the final three of nine UK academic sites were connected.
The turbo-charged network will be used for a series of demonstrations to coincide with next week's SuperComputing 2005 scientific conference in Seattle.
Researchers aim to push data transfer rates beyond present limits and show how UKLight's enhanced quality of service is enabling researchers to tackle scientific problems which have remained out of reach until now.
UKLight will take part in an international bandwidth challenge that aims to transfer data at a higher rate than ever before.
Using a 10Gbps transatlantic dedicated optical channel, researchers will attempt to achieve 6Gbps when sending data from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in the US to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.
Radio astronomers from three European observatories will use UKLight to transfer real-time data picked up from the same radio object to the Haystack Observatory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Together with two observatories in the US and one in Japan, they will demonstrate how optical networks could transform major radio telescopes widely dispersed across the globe into the equivalent of one vast telescope by enabling them to send data collected from the same region of sky at the same time for immediate processing.
In addition, the Simulated Pore Interactive Computing Experiment (Spice) will demonstrate how access to supercomputers on the UK National Grid Service and the US TeraGrid, connected by dedicated optical networks including UKLight, enables researchers to simulate and visualise more complex biological processes than would otherwise be possible.
"We are transferring modest amounts of data compared with some of the other applications," explained Dr Shantenu Jha from University College London.
"What is important for our simulations is the quality of service we get with UKLight. There is no loss or reordering of data which means that we can steer the simulations interactively."
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