The Netherlands’ SURFnet (Samenwerkende Universitaire Reken Faciliteiten, which in English means Cooperative University Computing Facilities), around since 1986, was one of the first first networks outside of the US that linked to the Internet. Much like Internet2 in the US, it unites university networks with industrial research centers and is designated for higher education and research in the Netherlands, Europe, and throughout the world.
SURFnet itself has evolved and shaped the nature of how data gets from one place to the next in network environments. Since 2006, SURFnet has relied on the benefit of “lightpaths,” which connect nodes in the network without routers, allowing for 1 to 10 Gbit/s transfer of data — of particular use to scientists and students cooperating on projects that utilize vast amounts of information over great distances. Cees de Laat, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who has focused on SURFnet’s various innovations over the years, is trying to get word out about how SURFnet can further develop and benefit the global research and educational communities as well as — interestingly enough — the entertainment industry.
SURFnet’s architectural structure itself is hybrid in nature, which allows for a very stable environment resistant to drops or bottlenecking of resources. Two applications are currently in use that utilize SURFnet’s stability and high speed to great effect:
SCARIe (Software Correlator Architecture Research and Implementation for the e-VLBI) and CineGrid.
SCARIe is used by astronomers; data from telescopes around the world that are focused on one point in the sky are funneled to a central location via SURFnet and correlated into one high resolution radio map. “In earlier days, radio astronomers would put their data on hard disks or tapes and ship it to each other; this meant correlation always took weeks or months,” de Laat says. “Now they can do it in almost real time.”
Similarly, CineGrid allows filmmakers to send gigantic data files — such as camera images and sound — around the world almost instantly for editing purposes. For productions filming in remote locations, this is truly a 21st century solution to problems faced since the invention of motion pictures.
Cees de Laat presents “eScience Applications on the SURFnet RE Network,” Thursday, March 10, 2:30 p.m. at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC) in Los Angeles, California. The conference’s program sums up the talk best: “The hybrid network paradigm pioneered by SURFnet provides the capacity demanded by modern eScience applications. This contribution presents ongoing research and developments to integrate photonic networks in the application middleware stack.”