Academic and scientific communities are eagerly waiting as new telescopes in Chile promise to deliver greater images than ever before of the universe above – at a rate of 100 GB per second.
To get ready for the supernova-size explosion of data, Georgia Tech’s Russ Clark, senior research scientist in the School of Computer Science and the Institute for People and Technology, is drawing up plans for how such large packets of information will be transmitted into the United States’ Internet network of peers, prioritized, then routed nationwide – without slowing down the Internet for everyone else.
“We want to be able to dynamically control the Internet’s bandwidth so that when physicists need large packets of data, it moves,” Clark says, “and when they don’t, that bandwidth can be used for something else.”
Clark’s work – a National Science Foundation-funded project, titled “AtlanticWave SDX” – has broad implications for how Internet hosts will peer worldwide to consistently prioritize data flow between them and, potentially, how individual Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will order data to the end recipient – be it images from a telescope, an electronic health record, the latest single from Taylor Swift, or spam.
Together, with co-investigators at Florida International University (FIU), Clark will define new, common protocols to prioritize packet flow by size or volume, the time sensitivity of data, or privacy requirements.
“The unchartered space is that engineers are responsible for replacing the current API expression with new protocols and then new APIs,” he says. “The technology will open up a whole new set of possibilities and business relationships. Potentially, the end user could amortize the cost of the bandwidth they need or pay for extra performance when it’s needed.”
Georgia Tech and FIU partnered for the project because the Institute houses and operates Southern Crossroads (SoX) in Atlanta – a high-speed, large-scale Internet peer network that unites the southeastern research and education community with others worldwide. (SoX also provides Internet bandwidth to participants from ISPs such as CenturyLink, TSIC and Cogent.) In addition, Georgia Tech houses RNOC – the Research Network Operations Center – used to develop and test new network infrastructure.
“Georgia Tech has both the academic research manpower and the living lab for testing new peer-to-peer operations,” said Cas D’Angelo, executive director of SoX. “We’re excited about the potential from this work.”
For Clark, the five-year project means first writing a common language between ISPs that defines peering relationships, then testing and deploying it in years two and three, and finally receiving real data from South American telescopes in years four and five and refining the process. Meanwhile, FIU will improve a highly constrained trans-Atlantic undersea cable system before telescopes come online.
“Ultimately this is about being able to specify how I want a packet of information to be treated and prioritized as an application user,” Clark says. “We’re attempting to move to an architecture that allows users to control prioritizing. Right now, managing Internet traffic flow is very crude – it’s all or nothing. We want to give more control over how you manage your Internet traffic.”