Faster science! Europe’s GÉANT research network is now ready for the terabit era

European scientists are pumping out an ever-increasing amount of data – just look at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider experiments for example – so here’s some welcome news for them: GÉANT, Europe’s research data backbone, has just completed a two terabits-per-second (2Tbps) upgrade.
That’s a whopping amount of capacity for the network, which connects Europe’s national research and education networks (NRENs) with one another and also with overseas counterparts – in total, the network takes in 32,000 universities, schools, research institutes, hospitals and so on. And the result is just as impressive for individual researchers, who will now get connection speeds of up to 100Gbps each – that’s 1,000 times more than the pretty darned impressive cable connection I’m using as I type, and about 10 times the maximum they could hope for before the upgrade.
The self-healing network offers capacity of up to 500Gbps today, with 2Tbps being the maximum that can be exploited in future. Entry into the terabit era will probably be necessary for handling the data spewing out of the Large Hadron Collider and other sources, including the upcoming Square Kilometre Array, the largest radio telescope ever, which is being constructed in South Africa and Australia.
GÉANT is partly funded by the European Commission, and here’s what digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes had to say on Wednesday:

“With this upgrade supporting capacity of up to 2Tbps across the core network, this project is essentially future proofing GÉANT until 2020. It means we can stay ahead of what has been termed the ‘data deluge’ that is emerging from research projects that are using more and more data in new ways.
“Today data speeds and processing are as critical as the research itself, and a super-fast network means we are closer to achieving a European Research Area, and to successfully dealing with challenges such as food and energy security, health and ageing, and environmental protection.”

The upgrade meant renewing 50,000km (31,000 miles) of backbone, plus putting in new equipment – the backbone’s 500Gbps “super-channels” use Infinera(s infn)’s DTN-X optical transmission platform, while the 100Gbps end-user speeds come courtesy of Juniper(s jnpr)’s MX-series routers.
(Incidentally, if you’re interested in how European researchers handle their data from the cloud side, then I’ll be interviewing Maryline Lengert of the European Space Agency (ESA) at our Structure:Europe conference in London on 18-19 September.)