Last week, the University of Florida announced that it had established a link to the Internet2 Innovation Platform, one of only four connection points in the nation to the lightning-fast 100-Gbits/s network. The problem? A 400-Gbits/s research network established in France already threatens to make the U.S. effort obsolete. That's not because the Renater research network is four times faster than what the Internet2 offers—if Renater's optical connection uses the 44 available wavelengths that the optical fiber can handle, the network will be able to transmit a mind-boggling 17.6 terabits per second in total. Following a successful field trial, the 400 Gbps wavelength optical link is now operational between Paris and Lyon. However, it has not yet been tested. When complete, the new link could make services such as telepresence and other high-speed video communications routine. The connection was jointly announced by France Telecom-Orange, which deployed the link, as well as Alcatel-Lucent, whose 400-Gbit/s photonic engine powers it. "As part of our innovation programme, we plan to test this optical fiber link in real conditions by using it to route traffic across one of our main backbone arteries between Paris and Lyon," Patrick Donath, the managing director of Renater, which manages the telecommunications networks for France's research institutions, wrote in a statement. "This link transports the bulk of France's scientific data that passes through our network. This pilot phase also aims to test the latest switching equipment supplied by major OEMs on a network running at this capacity and will enable us the anticipate the architecture of Renater's network in the coming years.” Renater's announcement partially steals the wind from the sails of the University of Florida, which joined Indiana University, Ohio State University’s Ohio Academic Resources Network, and the University of Oklahoma’s Oklahoma Area Network as the 100-Gbits/s connection points to the Internet2 Innovation Platform, a subset of the Internet2 network within the United States. The high-speed connection provides an important conduit for large pools of scientific data; the discovery of the Higgs boson last year was accompanied by data needs that reached 10 Gbits/s on a regular basis, Erik Deumens, director of research computing, said in a statement. To participate, universities or other agencies must have agreed to provide two of three capabilities: the 100-Gbits/s connection, a so-called "Science DMZ,” and software-defined networking capabilities. (The Science DMZ was designed to allow higher performance network flows, programmability and performance verification via a 100 Gbits/s switch, performance server and SDN server just outside of the campus network.) “Upgrading the UF research network to 100 Gbps will enable us to explore big data sciences, high-performance computing, future Internet and future cloud research, and interdisciplinary collaborations among scientists and engineers,” added Andy Li, an associate professor in the UF department of electrical and computer engineering, in a statement. “This development further boosts the scientific contribution and impact of UF in Florida, nationally, and internationally. Because we are connecting to a substantially upgraded information highway, UF can serve the needs of terabyte data throughput around the world for researchers and their collaborators.” Florida will serve as a gateway between Internet2 and Florida LambdaRail’s (FLR) 1,540-mile Research & Education Network, owned and operated by 12 partner universities, including UF. UF said that the FLR network had to be rebuilt to accommodate the 100-Gbits/s connection, but will now support "GatorCloud," a 200-Gbits/s campus computing initiative, as well as a new computer cluster. The UF Campus Research Network had to be rebuilt, piece by piece, to accommodate the 100 Gbps connection, the university said. But the network is now poised for innovations scheduled this spring, including GatorCloud, a 200 Gbps campus computing initiative, and a computer cluster that the university promises will be the largest in the state of Florida. The project cost $2.4 million, with $1.9 million from National Science Foundation grants and $500,000 in institutional funding.   Image: Yuganov Konstantin/