NSF to light up global research network

A new global network bridging researchers here and abroad is set to go live by Jan. 5.

The Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development, or GLORIAD, will help scientists in China, Europe, Russia and the United States collaborate on projects, said Greg Cole, associate director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The National Science Foundation is funding its participation in the project through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign center.

The challenge was getting consensus among Chinese, Russian and U.S. leaders about system specifics. 'It is a historic moment in getting all three countries together to agree on a common infrastructure,' Cole said.

GLORIAD is a joint project between NSF, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a consortium of Russian ministries and science organizations.

Although there have been research networks spanning this country and China, there has never been 'one of this magnitude,' Cole said. The participation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences'which includes more than 100 scientific research institutes and is the largest scientific organization in China'also added magnitude to the project.

The Synchronous Optical Network initially will support OC-3 throughput of 155 Mbps. The ultimate goal is 10 Gbps worldwide.

NSF contributed $2.8 million to building the WAN. Russia and China also contributed.

The circuit recently set up between Zabajkal'sk, Russia, and Manzhouli, China, represents the last link in the global research ring. Zabajkal'sk is already connected to the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University, which runs through Novosibirsk, Russia, Moscow and Amsterdam back to the United States. Manzhouli is connected to Chicago by way of Beijing and Hong Kong.

Both the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific legs of the network use fiber-optic lines of Tyco International Ltd. of Portsmouth, N.H.

To ensure security, network operations centers will monitor traffic flowing over the circuits and look for any unusual activity, Cole said. 'We monitor the router in Chicago through which all the traffic passes between the three countries for appropriate use of the network,' he said.

Researchers will collaborate on a wide number of disciplines, including astronomy, high-energy physics and environmental science. In particular, the network will permit researchers in far-flung locations to collaborate on complex projects requiring high-bandwidth connections.

One such project is the Iter, which means 'the way' in Latin. Participants from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States are joining forces to build the first thermo-nuclear experimental reactor. The group has posted details about the effort at www.iter.org.

'This new network will support communities like Iter, communities working on science projects that couldn't be accomplished by a single country,' Cole said. 'With higher capacity, we will provide communities with their own dedicated subnetworks.'

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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