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Major Network Project, Partnership

Released: 13-Apr-2004 3:30 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Newswise — Scientists and researchers at universities and Department of Energy labs around the nation are closer to being connected via high-speed networks that live up to their promise because of an agreement between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National LambdaRail.

The goal of the project is to establish a fiber-based infrastructure that allows computational science to be performed and resulting massive data to be shared across next-generation networks. NLR is building the nationwide infrastructure to be made available to the research community, while ORNL is developing technologies that allow for high-speed switching, user scheduling and connections to supercomputers. In particular, the network will provide access to ORNL's world-class computing facility at the Center for Computational Sciences. And when the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source is complete at ORNL in 2006, it will be added to the network.

"This effort between ORNL and NLR takes advantage of the NLR fiber-based infrastructure that can help the U.S. deploy the world's best communications networks for scientific and clinical research, technology development and education," said Thomas Zacharia, associate lab director for the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate.

Today's general purpose networks -- even the fastest commercial networks -- have been optimized for simply accumulating huge numbers of users and their data. Scientists conducting large science, however, need just the opposite, said Bill Wing, one of the directors of the project and a member of ORNL's Computer Science and Mathematics Division.

"Scientists need large amounts of dedicated bandwidth, but for relatively short periods of time," Wing said. "This agreement will allow NLR and ORNL to jointly participate in the creation of a nationwide network to support switching this sort of dedicated bandwidth between users on a time-sharing basis.

"Developers of commercial networks have spent 15 years optimizing aggregation, but they do not serve the needs of large-scale computational science. Our work with NLR will address that problem for the scientific community."

ORNL is a world leader in neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, biology, advanced materials and national security. NLR is a consortium of U.S. research universities and private sector technology companies created to provide a national scale infrastructure for research and experimentation in networking technologies and applications.

"NLR aims to re-energize innovative research and development into next-generation network technologies, protocols, services and applications that will enable advancements in science and research," said Tom West, NLR president and chief executive officer. "The advanced nature of ORNL's technologies will help us to achieve this goal by giving the researchers at ORNL and their collaborators around the country access and control of a network dedicated to their research.

"Furthermore, ORNL's experience in developing advanced network technologies with supercomputers makes the laboratory an ideal collaborator."

Under terms of the agreement, ORNL will provide four 10-gigabit (10 billion bits per second) lambdas (wavelengths of light used to transmit data) between Atlanta and Chicago.

Meanwhile, NLR will provide ORNL access to two 10-gigabit lambdas on the NLR backbone. In addition, ORNL will be granted Class C membership to NLR, a seat on the board and will be given member costs for additional lambdas on the NLR backbone.

No money and no legal obligations are created by the memorandum of understanding, which is in effect for five years.

ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by UT-Battelle. NLR is a major initiative of U.S. research universities and private sector technology companies to provide a national scale infrastructure for research and experimentation in networking technologies and applications. Visit for more information.

You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at

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