NASA’s Shadow Internet: 100 Times Faster Than Google Fiber

NASA uses a super-fast shadow network, known as the Energy Science Network (ESnet for short), to connect researchers working on big data projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider or the Human Genome Project. ESnet uses fiber optic lines to reach transfer speeds of 91 gigabits per second, the fastest ever reported for end-to-end data transfer conducted under real world conditions. NASA does not plan on making ESnet available to consumers, but the tech may someday be picked up by Internet service providers.

streamingIn the future, commercial providers may be using the same 100 gigabit switches that enable NASA to achieve high transfer speeds. XO Communication already has the infrastructure containing 100 gigabit switches.

NASA was able to successfully complete a 98 gigabit transfer over ESnet in 2012. However, in that case, the two locations, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Utah, had a direct connection. In the real world, that rarely happens because the current Internet system is more like an interweb of highways that require transfers at different cities.

ESnet doesn’t stop there. According to Wired, “Researchers have used it to explore virtual network circuits called ‘OSCARS,’ which can be used to create complex networks without complex hardware changes.”

Also, researchers are developing another network, “DMZs” which has super-fast speeds because of its unique approach to handling security without traditional network firewalls. The Department of Energy is also working to turn ESnet from a 100 gigabit network to a 400 gigabit network.