Scientests at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory plan to boldly take their network where no computer network has gone before.

The lab is touting the development of a blazingly fast Ethernet network that will exclusively support scientific research. It is building a prototype 100 gigabits per second Ethernet network to connect Department of Energy (DOE) supercomputer centers at speeds 10 times faster than its existing Energy Science Network (ESnet).

The $62 million in funding for the project will be provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the economic stimulus package. The bulk of the funding will be used for purchasing networking equipment or services from service providers who have the infrastructure to support the new 100 Gbps technology.

Scientists using the network are now generating data at the terabyte scale, and datasets will soon be in the petabyte range, which is 1,000 terabytes. According to the lab, moving this much data will require greater bandwidth and reliability as well as new protocols to enable the transfer of data at high speeds.

For example, the study of global climate change is a critical research area where the amount of data being created and accessed is growing exponentially. For example, an archive of past, present and future climate modeling data maintained by the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory contains more than 35 terabytes of data and is accessed by more than 2,500 users worldwide. However, the next-generation archive is expected to contain at least 650 terabytes, and the larger distributed worldwide archive will be between 6 petabytes to 10 petabytes.