FABRIC project announces high-speed network infrastructure expansion

Anita Nikolich
Anita Nikolich, Director of Research and Technology Innovation and Research Scientist

The NSF-funded FABRIC project has completed installation of a unique network infrastructure connection, called the TeraCore—a ring spanning the continental U.S.—which boasts data transmission speeds of 1.2 Terabits per second (Tbps), or one trillion bits per second. FABRIC previously established preeminence with its cross-continental infrastructure, but the project has now hit another milestone as the only testbed capable of transmitting data at these speeds—the highest being twelve times faster than what was available before. An additional benefit of this infrastructure is to allow FABRIC to federate with other experimental and science facilities at 400Gbps.

FABRIC is building a novel network infrastructure geared toward prototyping ideas for the future internet at scale. FABRIC currently has over 800 users on the system performing cutting-edge experiments and at-scale research in the areas of networking, cybersecurity, distributed computing, storage, virtual reality, 5G, machine learning, and science applications. Users now have the capability to test how their experiments run at much higher speeds, including developing endpoints that can source and sink, and protocols that can transfer data at up to 1.2Tbps over continental distances. While previously federated facilities were connected to FABRIC at 100Gbps, with TeraCore becoming operational, the team is also now working to connect several federated facilities at 400Gbps.

Another reason the TeraCore ring is so instrumental is the fact that much of this research is publicly funded and urgently needed but has been dependent on for-profit companies' technology. The TeraCore ring opens the door for expanded academic network infrastructure experimentation, thereby accelerating vitally important innovation and discovery. Additionally, this development sets up FABRIC's infrastructure for future expansion, allowing the possibility to further upgrade portions of the infrastructure as opportunities become available.

The TeraCore ring was built using spectrum from the fiber footprint of ESnet6, the cutting-edge, high-speed network operated by the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) that connects the tens of thousands of scientific researchers at Department of Energy laboratories, user facilities, and scientific instruments, as well as research and education facilities worldwide.

FABRIC's core team consists of researchers from the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Kentucky, Clemson University, Energy Sciences Network at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Virnao, LLC. Anita Nikolich, director of research and technology innovation and research scientist in the iSchool at Illinois, serves as co-principal investigator on the project.

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