FSU on track with high speed LambdaRail network

This is not your father’s Internet.

The Florida LambdaRail Network, a next-generation Internet that is faster than any other education-based network in the Southeast and is among the top in the nation in speed and capacity, is now operating at Florida State University and nine other universities in the state.

FSU was a leader in establishing the network, which can move information at speeds of 10 gigabits per second and has space for a total of 32 10-gigabit networks, or channels. It has 100 times more capacity than what was available to the universities previously—capacity that they will be able to purchase at a fraction of the current cost.

"This gives us a networking speed we could not even dream about just three years ago," said Larry Conrad, chair of the Florida LambdaRail Board and associate vice president and chief information officer at FSU. "Before, it would have taken days to download multiple terabyte files. Now it will take a few hours."

Whether probing elemental particles, cataloging images or sharing climate data, more and more scientists rely on massive data vaults located at universities and institutions around the world.

"The LambdaRail conquers space," said FSU Vice President for Research Kirby Kemper. "Collaboration between people widely separated by distance becomes as easy as working with someone just down the hall. Data files previously too huge to send across the Internet will flow as easily as e-mail from one desktop to another."

Kemper said many FSU researchers are involved in projects that involve sending large volumes of data over the Internet. FSU’s participation in the LambdaRail is crucial to the success of the projects. For example:

  • Assistant Scholar Jeffrey McDonald in the physics department is one of 1,900 scientists from 36 countries involved in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of the largest international scientific collaborations in history. The experiment, which is designed to help scientists understand some of the most basic properties of matter, will generate an enormous amount of data: During one second of CMS running, a data volume equivalent to 10,000 Encyclopaedia Brittanica is recorded.
  • Computer Science Professor Greg Riccardi is involved with the MorphBank database, a joint project of FSU’s School of Computational Science, the College of Information and the biology and computer science departments. The database contains thousands of high-resolution photographs and other images of plant and animal specimens. Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, the scope of the project and the number of images that must be moved across the FSU network connections will increase in order to store hundreds of thousands of images submitted by researchers from all over the world.

Florida LambdaRail is part of the National LambdaRail, an initiative to create a national high-speed information infrastructure for research universities and technology companies. Similar regional optical networks are under way or have been completed in other states—but Florida’s network is the only one fully created, funded and controlled by a group of universities, according to Conrad, who was one of the founders of FLR.

"This puts us on equal footing with the best research institutions in the nation," he said. "It levels the playing field for our faculty in competing for grants because funding agents know that we have the fastest research network connectivity available."

Besides FSU, the private and public universities in the FLR consortium are the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Miami, the University of West Florida and the University of North Florida.

The network relies on so-called dark fiber, existing buried fiber optic cable, to connect the universities. Strategic partners include Cisco Systems, which provided high-speed optical electronics, routers and other equipment and Level3 Communications and FiberCo, an Internet2 fiber holding company. FiberCo facilitated FLR’s purchase of 1,540 route miles from Level3 Communications.