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University of Alberta physicist helps transfer data at world record pace

University of Alberta

A University of Alberta physicist was part of a Canadian research team which recently set a WORLD RECORD for high-speed disk-to-disk transfer of research data.

Bryan Caron of the University of Alberta's Centre for Subatomic Research was a leading member of the team, which performed the record-breaking demonstration.

The rates achieved were equivalent to transferring all the data from a full-length DVD movie from one part of the world to another in less than 60 seconds, or a full compact disk in less than eight seconds.

Within three hours, Caron's group successfully moved one terabyte of research data--equivalent to roughly 1,500 CDs from TRIUMF, the particle physics lab in Vancouver, to CERN, the famed international particle physics lab in Geneva.

The team created a dedicated "light path" that stretched over 12,000 km, the longest-known single-hop network. This allowed researchers to bypass the public Internet and establish a new transatlantic superhighway. In doing so, they doubled a speed record previously set by a U.S. team.

James Pinfold, Director of the Centre for Subatomic Research at the University of Alberta, was pleased with the success of this trial.

"We are now coming to grips with the practical problems of establishing a world-wide computational grid to process the unprecedented amounts of data that will be generated by the ATLAS experiment when it begins to operate in 2007," said Pinfold, who speaks for ATLAS Canada, the Canadian contingent of an international collaboration of 2,000 physicists. The ATLAS experiment will employ the world's highest-energy collider (the LHC) to explore the fundamental nature of matter and the basic forces which shape our universe.

"The only way to deal with such unprecedented amounts of data is to utilize a new class of computing infrastructure--the GRID. The GRID is the World Wide Web of the 21st century," said Pinfold.

The GRID will eventually link together computers, supercomputers and storage centers across the globe to create a world computer that makes it possible for the increasingly large and international modern scientific collaborations to share resources on a mammoth scale.

This allows globally distributed groups to work together in ways that were previously impossible. The GRID "world computer" must have lightning fast and reliable communication of information between its nodes.

"What Bryan Caron and the other members of the Canadian team demonstrated in this latest speed test is that we are well on the way to achieving the kind of very high speed interconnections that are absolutely vital for LHC's GRID to function effectively", said Pinfold.

Recently researchers at the University of Alberta reported a GRID-like development where the computing power of 1360 computers at 21 facilities across Canada were harnessed to form a Canadian Internetworked Supercomputer (CISS), in order to study the interactions of chiral molecules.

"The developing GRID concept will probably face its first tough challenge when it is called upon to handle the data from the LHC," maintains Pinfold. "The LHC GRID will connect around 140 institutions in 35 countries around the world. The computing resources deployed in the LHC GRID will be immense, equivalent to tens of thousands of state-of-the-art PCs, with disk storage totaling of the order of 10 petabytes."

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