Fastest internet network in the world is upgraded to 46 Tb/s to support scientific research

The enhanced network is exclusively available to the science community at the Department of Energy.
Deena Theresa
A representational image of digital technology.
A representational image of digital technology.

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Scientists at the United States Department of Energy's (DOE) science network will hereon have access to the world's fastest internet. The DOE's Energy Science Network, ESnet, has now been upgraded to ESnet6, boasting a bandwidth of 46 Terabits per second (Tbps), enhancing the network's connectivity to new levels.

To put it into perspective, ESnet6 is 46,000 times faster than a comparatively high-speed connection of one Gbps. The current U.S. national average internet speed in 2022 is 119.03 Mbps, according to High Speed Internet.

"ESnet6 represents a transformational change in the way networks are built for research, with improved capacity, resiliency, and flexibility," ESnet executive director Inder Monga said in a press release. "Together, these new capabilities make it faster, easier, and more efficient for scientists around the world to conduct and collaborate on ground-breaking research."

ESnet was established in 1986, and over the past 35 years, the network has served as the "data circulatory system" for the DOE from the Berkeley Lab. It connects all of its national laboratories, DOE-funded researchers, and DOE's top-tier scientific instruments and supercomputing centers. Access to the ESnet has played a primary role in accelerating scientific advancements.

ESnet6 can transfer data between 400 Gbps and 1 Tbps

The network has had several upgrades and transmitted 1.1 exabytes of data over the network in 2021. According to the statement, traffic on ESnet increases by a factor of 10 every four years. In 2021, ESnet carried over 1.1 exabytes of science data.

ESnet6 comprises of 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of fiber optic cables with network backbone links ranging from 400 Gigabit per second to 1 Terabit per second for "record-time data transfers." The system will have advanced overall network security, services that can be customized through a new automation platform, and a future programmable API platform for scientists, as stated in the press release.

"ESnet exemplifies the 'team science' value of Berkeley Lab. Our partnerships with all the DOE national labs, vendors, global research and education networks, and academia were essential to the design and build of this important infrastructure for the Department of Energy while surmounting the challenges of the pandemic and resulting supply chain delays," continued Monga.

ESnet6 now features a "significant" increase in bandwidth over previous generations of the network, with more than 46 Terabits per second. Scientists can now process, share, and store tons of data emerging from research work and experiments.

Transferring large datasets, tackling massive challenges

There's more to the network than the newly increased capacity. ESnet engineers have devised smart, customized services that are "uniquely built to support the multi-petabyte dataflows typical of scientific research today and are future-proofed to manage the emerging exabyte data era."

The upgraded network will now enable scientists to transfer datasets produced by experiments that use large-scale instruments such as genome sequencers, telescope observatories, X-ray light sources, and particle accelerators.

"With ESnet6, DOE researchers are equipped with the most sophisticated technology to help tackle the grand challenges we face today in areas like climate science, clean energy, semiconductor production, microelectronics, the discovery of quantum information science, and more," added Helland.

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