Qwest Communications, Intel partners with research centers to launch "world's most powerful network"

Aug. 13, 2001
Aug. 13, 2001--FEATURE--Qwest Communications, a broadband communications company, announced it will partner with four research institutions to build what a network to support the National Science Foundation's Distributed Terascale Facility program. Intel's Itanium family of processors will be used to build the distributed scientific computing system.

By Mardi Balgochian Scalise, Lightwave Web Editor

Qwest Communications International Inc., (NYSE: Q) a broadband communications company, announced it will partner with four U.S. research institutions to build what the company claims will be the world's most powerful network to support the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Distributed Terascale Facility (DTF) program.

Using its wavelength services network, Qwest will provide the ultra high-speed broadband network to interconnect the four research institutions; IBM will offer its geographically distributed Linux servers; and Intel will supply its Itanium-family processors. The DTF network will consist of four 10 gigabit/second wavelengths for a total network capacity of 40 gigabits/second. The DTF network will be 16 times faster than any research network available -- enough capacity to transfer the entire contents of the world's publicly accessible Web sites among any of the four DTF sites in only two hours.

The four research centers are the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego; Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill.; and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Los Angeles. These institutions were selected by the NSF to develop the DTF, which will be the largest, most comprehensive computing infrastructure ever deployed for scientific research.

Intel's Itanium family of processors will be used to build the distributed scientific computing system. According to Intel, the computing system, dubbed the "TeraGrid," -- due to its speed, distributed design and deployment across multiple networked geographic sites -- is part of a $53 million award by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to four facilities to address complex scientific research by creating a Distributed Terascale Facility (DTF).

The TeraGrid will achieve "tera" performance with its ability to calculate trillions of floating point operations per second (teraflops) and store trillions of bytes (terabytes) of data. The grid is a resource for researchers to mutually access the system and collaborate using shared computing hardware, software and information. It will link computers powered by more than 3,300 Intel Itanium family processors. It will be capable of more than 13.6 trillion calculations per second (13.6 teraflops) and have the ability to store, access and share more than 450 trillion bytes of information.

"Today's NSF award is a major show of support for Itanium technology," said Abhi Talwalkar, Intel vice president and assistant general manager, Enterprise Platforms Group. In a conference call speaking about Intel's processors, Talwalkar commented, "This architecture was developed to support the next 25 years of enterprise requirements."

"With this network, the nation's most advanced computers, instruments and data archives will be interconnected with greater capacity than we now have at the largest computer centers. Yet, the resources are in four locations, 2,000 miles apart," said Dan Reed, director of NCSA and the National Computational Science Alliance (Alliance) on behalf of the four DTF research institutions. "We effectively are improving on the Internet's elimination of distance and time barriers by making shared access to massive data -- whether it's output from a radio telescope or scientific computer simulations -- a routine endeavor."

NSF will provide $53 million to the four DTF institutions in the 2002 fiscal year. DTF will be a distributed facility that will provide scientists with an unprecedented capacity for computing, data analysis and management; high-resolution visualization; and long-distance collaboration. The DTF program and the DTF network will further the mission of NSF's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, which is creating a nationwide computational and information infrastructure to enable breakthrough discoveries in science and engineering. The PACI program includes two partnerships, the Alliance, led by NCSA, and the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), led by SDSC.

The DTF network will connect West Coast laboratories at SDSC in San Diego and Caltech in Los Angeles with Illinois laboratories at NCSA in Champaign-Urbana and Argonne in the Chicago area. The network also will provide links to Internet2's Abilene research network and to research networks worldwide via the STAR LIGHT interconnect in Chicago. The DTF network technical deployment and operations team includes participants from all four DTF sites and Qwest, as well as Internet2 and STAR LIGHT.

The DTF network will use Qwest facilities operating among San Diego, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Illinois, the network will take advantage of I-WIRE (Illinois Wired-Wireless Infrastructure for Research and Education), a fiber optic network funded through Illinois Gov. George Ryan's "Illinois First" initiative. The I-WIRE optical network will provide the DTF with network capacity and will give Argonne and NCSA additional bandwidth for related network-research initiatives.

"From the earliest days of the Internet, bandwidth within and among local computers has been much greater than among geographic locations. This fact has shaped the architecture of everything from corporate data centers to the World Wide Web," said Argonne's Charlie Catlett, architect of the DTF network. "Many of the things scientists have wanted to do over the past several decades have been left untried simply because moving the data around can take days or weeks. This network will reduce that time to minutes or hours, opening up entirely new possibilities."

Expected to be available in 2002, the TeraGrid is planned to be the most comprehensive distributed scientific computing infrastructure of its kind. It will build upon an existing one-teraflops solution with more than 300 Itanium processors now being deployed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

"There's a lot of talk about bandwidth capacity and the fiber glut," said Dr. Wesley Kaplow, chief technology officer of Qwest Government Systems Division. "We believe this project showcases bandwidth-hungry applications of significant national industrial importance that will drive the next generation of the Internet and networking technologies."

About Qwest:

Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) provides scalable and secure broadband data, voice and image communications for businesses and consumers. For more information, visit www.qwest.com.

About Intel:

Intel is a chip maker and a manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. For more information, visit www.intel.com.

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