Newswise — Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago set a new milestone last Friday (Oct. 10) in trans-Atlantic data transmission, demonstrating the practicality of transferring very large data sets over high-speed networks.

UIC's National Center for Data Mining (NCDM) and Laboratory for Advanced Computing flashed a set of astronomy data from Chicago to Amsterdam at 6.8 gigabits per second -- 6,800 times faster than the one-megabit per second speed used by most companies to connect to the Internet.

The test used Amsterdam's SURFnet and Chicago's Abilene networks.

During a 30 minute test, the researchers transmitted approximately 1.4 terabytes of data -- an amount which if printed on paper would fill two buildings the size of the Sears Tower. Using today's standard Internet protocol, the same data transfer would have taken 25 days.

TCP -- the network protocol commonly used today -- is not effective at moving large data sets over long distances, such as across an ocean. Researchers are looking at ways to improve TCP, find new protocols, or adopt other protocols.

Friday's text run used a newer network protocol developed by the NCDM called UDP-based Data Transport, or UDT. Unlike some other protocols now being studied for high-speed data transfer, UDP-based protocols can be used over today's Internet without making changes to the network infrastructure. Friday's demonstration showed that UDT could effectively coexist with thousands of other network connections.

Previous high-speed transfers of very large data sets used specialized research networks with data protocols that prevented other network traffic from sharing the same link.

Researchers at UIC and elsewhere have recently developed hybrid protocols based on UDP to improve its reliability and minimize data lost during high-speed transmission.

"We just finished our initial testing and analysis of the UDT protocol and found that with it, you can transfer large data sets over very busy international production networks safely," said Cees de Laat, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who visited UIC on Friday for the demonstration. "This remarkable achievement with the UDT protocol paves the way for trans-Atlantic data-intensive applications."

"Using UDT, it is now practical to move even very large data sets over very long distances," said Robert Grossman, director of UIC's National Center for Data Mining.

The demonstration was part of an ongoing international effort to find and test new ways of reliably moving massive data sets around the globe using advanced networks and new transfer protocols. Such systems hold enormous promise for advancing scientific research, in addition to many possible commercial applications.

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