US Department of Energy upgrades ESnet6 research network to 400G • The Register

The fiber optic network connecting the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) national laboratories received its first major upgrade in more than a decade this week, increasing its bandwidth capacity to a total of 46 Tbps.

Established in 1986, ESnet has grown to 15,000 miles of fiber optic cables carrying scientific data between the many supercomputers and thousands of researchers housed in the DoE’s 17 national laboratories.

“As scientific instruments become more complex and supercomputers simulate scientific phenomena with higher resolution, the scientific community faces a growing challenge: data volumes are increasing exponentially,” said Barbara Helland, associate director of the DoE’s Advanced Scientific Computing program, in a statement .

According to the DoE, ESnet carried more than 1.1 exabytes of scientific data in 2021. The agency expects this to increase by a factor of ten every four years.

ESnet6 increases the capacity of the network by an order of magnitude, with link bandwidth now ranging from 400 to 1,000 Gbps, up from the 100 Gbps that ESnet5 offered when it launched in 2011.

During a launch event at ESnet headquarters in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Tuesday, the department demonstrated how the network can transmit a multi-terabyte earthquake simulation nearly 2,500 miles away to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in minutes.

The DoE is not the only scientific institution struggling with massive streams of data generated by scientific research.

In 2019, researchers responsible for creating the first visual evidence of a supermassive black hole generated about 14 petabytes of data in five days that had to be airlifted on hard drives. At 400 Gbps, ESnet6 could transmit an equivalent data set in just over 87 hours.

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The upgrades announced this week are not limited to higher bandwidths. According to DoE, the upgrade also resulted in greater levels of programmability, automation, and security. Eventually, the DoE hopes researchers can request network services through an API.

The upgraded network uses optical cabling, switching, routing and packet processing technology from Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink), Ciena, Infinera, Nokia and AMD.

“These new capabilities make it faster, easier and more efficient for scientists around the world to conduct breakthrough research and collaborate,” said Inder Monga, Executive Director of ESnet, in a statement.

The updates come as the DoE is investing heavily in new supercomputing hardware, and less than six months after Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s 1.1 exaflop Frontier supercomputer claimed first place in the Top 500. ® US Department of Energy upgrades ESnet6 research network to 400G • The Register

Rick Schindler

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