100 Gigabits is Evolutionary, not Revolutionary

This October, the Department of Energy (DOE), with the non-profit Internet 2, completed the first transcontinental 100 gigabit network. The prototype network—funded with a $62 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–connects more than 40 DOE laboratories, universities and other research institutions. It was built in cooperation with Internet2, a testbed research and education network, and is part of DOE’s Advanced Networking Initiative to develop a next generation science and research infrastructure. ESnet and Internet2 will share capacity on the network, which initially will link DOE supercomputing centers at the Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories. This entry’s title comes from the remarks of an official for ESnet, explaining that, the DOE has set a goal of achieving exabit (1,000 petabits) capacity computing by 2020, which would require access to terabit speed networks.

Now imagine what could be possible if the ultra-high speeds did not stop at the lab door. Suddenly, telecommuting becomes possible for a host of highly knowledgeable and high-value workers. This is important for at least two reasons: it increases productivity and drives innovation.

First, to productivity: Insights are not confined to the hours at work, but could extend to whenever researchers could access their data and their labs, from their homes. In fact, GSA cites two studies indicating that control of comfort of workplace conditions contributes to a 3% increase in productivity.

Second, to innovation: A home connected to ultra-high speeds could be an extension of the laboratory, enhancing collaboration between researchers in different disciplines and off-campus experimentation using next generation applications. These testbeds for energy research can become testbeds for a range of high-bandwidth applications—some of which may be built by highly skilled workers, blowing off steam at home.

And by the way, we aren’t the only ones who thinks so—just last weekend came another report of a company in England seeking to invest $800 million to connect 50,000 businesses and 4% of British homes to open-access fiber.


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