The Future Looks Bright for "StarLight"
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The new "Science Technology And Research Light-Illuminated Gigabit High-performance Transit" is a constellation of words that condense nicely into the acronym "StarLight."
An international high-speed optical fiber network connection point -- developed and operated in partnership by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and the Argonne National Laboratory -- StarLight links a global network of research computers via advanced fiber optic equipment. It is both a stable high-speed link for advanced scientific work and provides a site for public and private information technology clients to test hardware for reliability, much as a speedway is used to test new cars.
StarLight provides a communication intersection for the "information super highway" as no other. As UIC computer science professor and StarLight co-creator Tom DeFanti put it: "Think of a two-lane road passing by your house as the equivalent of, say, a DSL or cable modem line. StarLight supports networking equivalent to a 10,000-lane highway."
The Netherlands' national research and education computer network SURFnet has signed up to be the fastest customer to connected to the Chicago-based facility, moving data at the blazing speed of 2.5 giga (billion) bits a second. "We're working to get it up to 10 gigabits -- and beyond," said DeFanti. The higher speeds will be reached as early as next spring.
With 10-gigabit links expected to Canada, Asia and other European sites within the next year, StarLight promises to support real-time, multi-site virtual reality presentations, advanced interactive data mining, remote control of large-scale telescopes and microscopes and other computing advances that will let the international scientific research community collaborate over the challenging problems of our time.
StarLight evolved from an earlier broadband facility called "STAR TAP" (Science, Technology And Research Transit Access Point) developed by UIC and Argonne researchers. STAR TAP, with a maximum bandwidth speed of 622 megabits a second, continues to serve the needs of researchers worldwide who cannot yet get the extra data flow offered by StarLight.
Joe Mambretti directs the International Center for Advanced Internet Research at Northwestern University. He says the world's advanced research community is very enthusiastic about StarLight. "The group of us developing StarLight has been at the forefront of advanced networking for the last 15 years. Our community develops advanced applications requiring these high-performance networking technologies. There's no end to this trend in sight," Mambretti said.
StarLight will also host connections to the world's most-advanced multi-site supercomputing system, called TeraGrid, scheduled to begin operation in mid-2002. It also connects with the State of Illinois-funded optical research network called I-WIRE.
StarLight's physical connection and routing point is at Northwestern University's downtown Chicago campus. The high-tech facility offers ample space for networking and computing equipment expansion -- a rare and valuable feature offered to researchers worldwide.
Development funding for StarLight comes from the U.S. National Science Foundation and international partner research networks. Argonne National Laboratory's Math and Computer Science Division provides network design and engineering, and is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.
For more information about StarLight, see http://www.startap.net/starlight.
Last Updated: 17 February 2010