Fastest Gun in the West
By Raven Hanna
SLAC partnered with CalTech, Fermilab, CERN and the
University of Florida, along with groups from the UK, Brazil and Korea to
defend its title as one of the fastest guns in the West—or, more
accurately, the largest bandwidth, which is the computing equivalent.
Shown left to right: Les Cottrell (SCS), Michael Chen (Chelsio)
and Gary Buhrmaster (SCS) display their Bandwidth Challenge certificates
at SC2004. (Photo courtesy of Les Cottrell)
In the Supercomputing 2004 Bandwidth Challenge contest,
the team set a new world record for sustained bandwidth of 101 gigabits
per second (Gbps). This was equivalent to downloading three DVD movies per
second and was four times faster than the record of 23 Gbps that SLAC team
set at Supercomputing 2003. Using roughly $400K of cutting-edge equipment
loaned from companies, the SLAC team designed their part of the network
before the Supercomputing 2004 convention and then set it up upon arrival
in Pittsburgh, PA.
"The award in our case was given for the maximum
utilization of all the bandwidth," Les Cottrell (SCS) said. "We decided to
show that we could utilize high performance networks with the idea that
they are very important for high energy physics."
Being able to transfer large amounts of information
quickly is essential to the success of geographically dispersed
collaborations in scientific communities. Currently, on a regular basis,
several terabyte/day are sent inter-continentally by SLAC alone. The
future needs for High Energy Physics are anticipated to grow by a factor
of 10 in the next five years.
Collaboration not only was the motivation for the High
Bandwidth Challenge, but was also critical to the team’s success.
"An interesting thing came out of this," Cottrell said.
"Normally you expect companies to be at each other’s throats, but here
it’s very much a collaborative thing, where everyone works together to try
to make it work well."
At the SLAC/FNAL booth in the conference exhibit hall,
attendees watched a visual display showing the amount of information
transferring to and from CERN, Florida, Fermilab, CalTech, UC San Diego
Congratulations to the team for the award and for
accepting the challenge to expand the horizons of what is achievable.