Area Researchers Get Major Boost in Internet Connectivity Speed

Dec 9, 2013

Pittsburgh area researchers are getting a major boost in their ability to share datasets, thanks to the work of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

The Center is a collaboration of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Westinghouse Energy Center, and provides Internet connectivity to many universities and research centers in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the Three Rivers Optical Exchange Internet2 system.

Wendy Huntoon, director of Advanced Networking at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, said the upgrade from 10 to 100 gigabits per second will be a boon to researchers across disciplines.

“What we see in the research community is that the scientists are grappling with these much larger datasets,” Huntoon said. “The researchers will be able to move these big datasets to where they need to have them so they can actually do the analysis.”

The new connection is about 5,000 types faster than the connection most consumers have at home. Huntoon said the research community generally sees connectivity improvements before consumers see them. Right now, the fastest connection available to consumers is about 1 gigabit per second.

“The connections that you have at home are things that we probably, in the research community, were working on five to 10 years before you get it at home,” Huntoon said. “What we’re seeing is that the timeframe for you to get access to this at home is shortening.”

Huntoon said there are about thirty other similar organizations across the country that provide fast internet connectivity to research centers and universities, and that most are in the process of upgrading their systems, if they haven’t done so already. She said this kind of upgrade happens on a regular basis.

“The next jump is probably going to be 400 gigabits,” Huntoon said. “We’re not doing that yet. We’re just doing 100 Gigabits right now, but what we’ll try to do in the next three to five years is … to make that jump up.”

The project was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.