The University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development consortium, better known as Internet 2, have made a huge leap in speed for their secondary internet network. Whereas before, the theoretical limit sat at 10 gigabyte-per-second, the operators of the developmental network have managed to boost their speeds to a massive 100 gigabyte-per-second.
To put that in relative terms, that “theoretical limit” is still thousands of times faster than what most of us enjoy (or, as the case may be, suffer). In most cases the upper limit of internet speeds that only the financially well off can afford, is 10 megabytes¬-per-second; and even then, that is pushing it!
Another more relevant example; download a high definition movie today and it will take several hours, possibly half the night if you have a decent connection. With 10gbps, you would be able to download that same movie in a few minutes. However, the new speed reached by the Internet 2 consortium would allow you to download that same high definition movie in a matter of seconds.
Currently, the Internet 2 runs parallel to your normal internet, thus making sure that it does not endanger our already fragile speeds. It is used primarily by universities, corporations and researchers who need to exchange large amounts of data in real time, and is a secondary network on which they access only when needed.
Take your average university or laboratory researcher, who needs to access large amounts of data – such as images from telescope data sets that measure in the “massive” range; the Internet2 backbone allows that access without any of the hindrances our everyday internet would provide. Subsequently, it also saves that ‘everyday internet’ from suffering from his access to those data sets.
Now while this advancement is indeed a massive breakthrough, average users will not see that type of speeds for many years to come. Only when the world starts heading towards an interconnected Star Trek style lifestyle will we begin to reap those benefits.
However it could be by early May of next year that these massive speeds will be open to a lucky few. The $1.8 billion Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research begins operations in May, and they are most likely going to be the first to get the most out of Internet2.
"There will be thousands of physicists who will all need to access the data coming out of the LHC," said Doug Van Houweling, Internet2's chief executive.
So, for the sake of further explanation, imagine the online ticket
store for a RadioHead concert slowing down as a thousand screaming
fans attempt to all buy his concert tickets at once. You’ve been there
and you can vouch for the slow speeds.
If that was to happen to a massive data set – a thousand screaming scientists trying to access it at once – then the entire internet could very well heave itself offline.
With the Internet2 providing that backbone for scientists alone – with a massive increase in allowable speed – the benefits to science are immeasurable at the moment. What’s better is that Van Houweling believes that in the next 12 to 18 months, an increase to 400 Gbps is likely.
Posted by Josh Hill