World Record Set in Transatlantic Visualization

December 11, 2005

HPCwire - Global Crossing, a provider of telecommunications solutions, has helped to set a world record in transatlantic visualization. Scientists from the Netherlands established the record by generating the largest transatlantic real-time data stream, to date, for ultra-high-resolution visualization.

The record was set by SARA, the academic computer center in Amsterdam, which displayed a visualization stream of 19.5 Gbps between NetherLight, the GLIF Open Lightpath Exchange (GOLE) in Amsterdam, and San Diego in the US. This new benchmark for a real-time transatlantic data stream was established using high-speed multiple 10 Gbps wavelengths supplied by Global Crossing to the Dutch research network operator SURFnet.

During the experiment, network usage peaked at 19.5 Gbps, with a sustained rate of 18 Gbps -- a world record for bandwidth usage by one single application showing actual scientific content. The experiment was conducted at the iGrid 2005 conference in San Diego where the display was located. The conference included workshops and real-time demonstrations of research innovations in LambdaGrid infrastructure in support of advanced science applications. Global Crossing is one of the major providers of lambdas to the Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF) community.

"This was a unique event which set out to test the limits of very high speed wide area networking to support data-intensive applications," said Paul Wielinga, SARA's business unit manager for high-performance networking. "The success of this experiment depended heavily on Global Crossing's high-speed transatlantic connections, as well as being able to source a virtual graphic card and a display that could handle a visualization with a resolution of 100 million pixels."

The high bandwidth usage was required to refresh the large "tiled" screen 20 times per second in order to achieve high levels of resolution. The output was viewed on a display of 55 screens of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory of the University of Illinois, resulting in a total resolution of 17,600 x 6,000 pixels. SARA will be taking this experiment forward in February next year when once again they will use Global Crossing as the backbone for running a high-resolution visualization and videoconferencing simultaneously.

John Legere, CEO of Global Crossing, said: "We are extremely proud of the proven capabilities of our global fiber network to support research experiments that are pushing forward the boundaries of international computer grids. Setting records of this nature requires a level of network performance and reliability that we consistently deliver to the global research and education community."

For this latest record-breaking experiment, the infrastructure between Amsterdam and San Diego consisted of a 20 Gbps connection set up in close cooperation with SURFnet via the GOLE's NetherLight in Amsterdam and StarLight in Chicago. The 2-D and 3-D data objects were rendered live on a powerful visualization cluster in Amsterdam and transported as a pixel stream via optical lambda networks to San Diego.

The availability of lambda networks opens the way for separation of the visualization "engine," or high-end graphical computer, from the high-resolution display. It enables real-time visualizations running at close to 20 Gbps over transatlantic wide area networks. This has other important implications, including allowing visualizations from a central facility to be distributed to distant locations without the need for data to leave a protected, enclosed environment. The visualization of a medical procedure, for example, can be distributed as an intensive pixel stream without sensitive information leaving the hospital. This allows researches and scientists to view large data sets as a real-time image rather than have to store the data locally in order to be able to view it.

Mr. Wielinga commented: "This experiment is just the beginning of a concept, and we're considering other applications in the areas of astrophysics and high-energy physics that could use this networking model. None of this would be possible without access to dedicated high bandwidth capacity. We are pushing the limits of technology and we are now studying improved network protocols to overcome latency over long distances and to use even higher bandwidth more efficiently."

Global Crossing's collaboration with the research community, in the pursuit of new standards for high-performance networking, goes back to 2002 when Global Crossing supported SURFnet and its international partners to set a new intercontinental Internet2 land speed record. The record at that time was set by transferring the equivalent of the contents of an entire compact disc across more than 7,608 network miles between Alaska and Amsterdam in 13 seconds.

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