Lancaster University

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Boosting computer power in the North West

03/05/2004 11:54:50

The final cables were laid this week in one of the biggest and fastest computer networks in Europe.

High-speed networking experts at Lancaster University have put the finishing touches to the Trans Regional Broadband Superhighway - a £1.7Million project linking Universities, Higher Education sites and E-Science centres across the North West of England.

The Northwest Development Agency-funded scheme links Carlisle, Penrith, Kendal, Lancaster, Preston, Chorley, Manchester, Warrington and Daresbury with 200Km of fibre optic cable supplied by Your Communications, a North West-based telecommunications company.

The new grid opens the door to quicker, more sophisticated communication between computer systems enabling researchers and academics to share computer data and boost their systems’ capacity. Potential uses for the grid are immense, ranging from molecular drug research to global health modeling and astrophysics.

The network will underpin the growth of E-Science - large-scale science conducted on vast computer networks with the help of the internet. Initially the network will provide multiple 10Gbs (10,000,000,000 bits of information per second) circuits between sites utilising DWDM (Dense Wave Division Mulitplexing) equipment supplied by ADVA A.G. of Germany. When fully deployed it has the capacity to deliver 320Gbs of data.

As a first step the high-performance Grid Clusters at Lancaster University will be interconnected with Daresbury Laboratory - a Cheshire-based science and engineering research centre. A 10Gbs link will enable them to operate as one huge system comprising hundreds of computer nodes. Later this will be extended to include other Grid facilities in the region.

The Superhighway is the largest 10Gb Ethernet network in Europe and matches the networks being deployed as part of the Internet2 programme in the US.

Project Director Barry Forde of Lancaster University said: “The TRBSH is a very exciting development that will enable the E-Science community in the North West of England to compete on an equal footing with other UK and European regions in bidding for research funds.”

Phil Southward, NWDA Head: Regional Intelligence Unit and ICT Policy, said: “I am very pleased to see this exciting project come to fruition, which will make a huge impact on the region’s educational institutions, and place the Northwest firmly on the world map for ICT development. Access to fast and reliable Internet connections is becoming increasingly important, and the Agency will continue to work hard to ensure that the Northwest is able to fully grasp the new opportunities presented by the digital revolution.”

Lancaster University has taken a lead role in high speed networking in the region. High speed networking experts at the University have connected more than 500 schools to the internet through Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online (CLEO) project. Lancaster University is also the only UK University to hold a Telecom Operator’s licence.