Last Updated: February 23, 2016
By Will Welch '16
Researchers at Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine now have five times the capacity to share data with other institutions thanks to an investment from the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) in bandwidth for Stony Brook’s research network.
DoIT increased bandwidth from 2Gbps to 10Gbps, a massive jump that will support current research, such as Stony Brook High Energy Physics (HEP) and the Institute for Advanced Computer Science, as well as new initiatives, such as those being led by the Department of Biomedical Informatics.
“We’re opening up the pipes for researchers,” said James Hart, DoIT’s director of data network services. “One of our top priorities is to expand research network capacity at Stony Brook so that specialized investigators have the power and range to conduct their studies.”
The greater bandwidth is available through the New York State Education and Research Network (NYSERNet), a non-profit organization that manages a private network connecting member institutions in New York State. NYSERNet is part of the larger Internet2 consortium, which connects research institutions across the United States, creating a second Internet devoted solely to academic collaboration.
NYSERNet allows researchers to send huge amounts of research data between institutions without competing with commercial Internet traffic, such as videos, forums, and e-commerce sites, that share the resources of the Internet as we know it. This is important, because researchers sometimes need to transfer petabytes worth of data. To put this in perspective, if it takes a normal music file one megabyte per minute to play, a petabyte-size MP3 file would play for 2,000 years.
“People used to have carriers who would pick up hard drives that had the data, package it and ship it to other universities so they could put it in their machine and read it,” said DoIT Senior Network Architect Behzad Barzideh. “That used to be faster than having someone transfer the data.” NYSERNet and Internet2 have removed the need to ship hard drives by opening up the pipes, thus improving the effectiveness of the network.
The High Energy Physics (HEP) group at Stony Brook is one project in particular that will benefit from the increased bandwidth. The group periodically receives data from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland that can take longer than a day to transfer at gigabit-per-second rates. With more bandwidth, HEP scientists have faster access to the data they need.
“Our datasets are large, and we need lots of them locally to work most efficiently,” said Dean Schamberger, technical director of the High Energy Physics lab. “Even a factor of two more bandwidth will help a lot.”
Stony Brook has been a member of NYSERNet for the past 15 years and has opted for higher bandwidth whenever it has become available. This investment marks an aggressive and cost-effective push to connect Stony Brook with the best tools to support cutting-edge research.