ESnet marks 25 years
of service to science
Posted November 8, 2011
Here is ESnet’s idea of a 25th birthday bash: testing the ultimate high-speed network, a 100-gigabits-per-second (Gbps) prototype intended to meet the ever-increasing data demands of large-scale, collaborative science.
This year marks a quarter century since the founding of the Department of Energy’s ESnet – Energy Sciences Network – based at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and sponsored by the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) in the Office of Science.
From its beginning, ESnet has enabled large-scale science collaboration between DOE supercomputers and advanced instruments and global research and education institutions. It has done so by maintaining free-flowing bandwidth and reliable connections for sharing massive data sets. A researcher in Illinois, for example, can use ESnet to operate an electron microscope at LBNL’s National Center for Electron Microscopy from his desktop. The network has an international reach, allowing easy access to massive particle-smashing data sets generated at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on the Franco-Swiss border.
The high-speed network is always running and is used by 25,000 scientists in the United States alone. They work on major problems in such areas as energy, genomics and astrophysics – and routinely rely on ESnet in pursuit of their discoveries. (See sidebar, “Network enables exploding star search.”)
ESnet began in 1986 when the High Energy Physics network (HEPnet) merged with the Magnetic Fusion Energy Network (MFEnet). The original was based on 56-kilobit lines. Today, data generated by some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers moves at a 10-Gbps clip, and the rate is rising.