Internet freeway will allow uber-fast communication between researchers

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We’ve all had problems with unreliable Internet speeds. Whether you’re streaming a movie in high definition, or trying to play a multiplayer video game online, there are plenty of circumstances that might strain your connection. It can be a big problem during your leisure time, but for the largest research projects, it can be a huge roadblock toward any forward progress.

Research data might not seem like the most intensive content to transfer wirelessly, but it’s not uncommon for enormous samples of such information to be delivered from one institution to another. Over the last three years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been delivering grants to universities to fund upgrades to their campus networking facilities.

Now, the NSF is making its biggest contribution thus far, laying down $5 million to pay for a Pacific Research Platform – a high-capacity “freeway system” that allows academic institutions to share large quantities of data more easily than ever before.

While the west coast is the focus initially, the project is including other institutions to demonstrate its potential to be extended in the future, according to a report from The University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern and the University of Amsterdam are some of the academic facilities from farther afield being included, and four national supercomputer centers will also be connected to the network.

It’s thought that once the PRP system is in place, researchers will be able to access data from other institutions at speeds comparable to those of local disk usage. With less time and effort spent negotiating data from one location to another, it’s expected that this will result in a tangible increase in research speed for the organizations with access to the network. It’s estimated that the project will take up to five years to carry out, but will result in speeds up to 1,000 times faster of those in place today.