New Network To Link Scientists In U.S., Russia, China - InformationWeek

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New Network To Link Scientists In U.S., Russia, China

A new computer network for scientists is the first step toward a 10-Gbyte-per-second link.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Soon scientists in the United States, China, and Russia will be able to collaborate in cyberspace over a new high-speed computer network that includes the first direct computer link across the Russia-China border, developers say.

The network, expected to go online next month, will ring the Northern Hemisphere, connecting computers in Chicago with machines in Amsterdam, Moscow, Siberia, Beijing, and Hong Kong before hooking up with Chicago again, said Greg Cole of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, one of the leaders of the Little Gloriad project. Data will flow at 155 million bytes per second.

"This new network permits us to learn more from each other in areas where we haven't worked together in the past," Cole said Monday.

The NCSA, based at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus, received $2.8 million from the National Science Foundation to fund the U.S. portion of the network for the next three years. Russia and China are spending similar amounts, Cole said.

"As we aim to strengthen our nations' capabilities in research, we also aim to contribute to the cumulative knowledge that lifts the prospects of people everywhere," NSF director Rita Colwell said in a statement announcing the plans.

The NSF's program officer for the project, William Y. Chang, did not immediately return a phone call to his Arlington, Va., office Monday.

Scientists have always had computer networks separate from the consumer Internet that assure them the capacity to transfer huge volumes of information at speeds much faster than typical Internet transfers and for real-time collaboration on high-tech experiments, Cole said.

Little Gloriad--an acronym for Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development--will let scientists and educational researchers work together on such issues as responding to natural disasters, safeguarding nuclear material, monitoring earthquakes, or joint space exploration.

They also could collaborate to remotely monitor or control high-tech equipment and even could get together face-to-face by video conferencing over the network, he said.

"This is specifically so our scientists and educators can work together more easily," Cole said. "The technology is really rather amazing with what it allows us to do on a daily basis."

The fiber-optic connection between China and Russia that makes the network possible was completed a few months ago, Cole said. Final touches are being put on the China-Russia link, and the global network should see its first traffic on Jan. 5.

A formal launch ceremony is planned for Jan. 12 in Beijing, he said.

Scientists from Russia and the United States have had direct computer links for about five years, while Russia and China often exchanged scientific information by meeting in Chicago, Cole said. The new network should strengthen the collaboration between those countries, he said.

Little Gloriad is a "first big step" toward development of the higher-speed Gloriad, Cole said. That effort, expected to be launched later this year, will move data at 10 Gbytes per second, 60 times faster than the Little Gloriad.

Computer connections have fostered scientific collaborations that otherwise might not have happened, Cole said.

"There's some advantage to having people being able to talk more regularly," he said. "There are fewer misunderstandings. I think these networks are going to be more important to the more critical issues that we're all addressing together."

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