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University network plans 8 terabit per second trials

Australia's Academic and Research Network, AARnet, is hoping to get an 8 terabit per second communications trial up and running later this, or early next, year as it responds to the dramatically rising data demands of researchers which are doubling each year. The organisation has also finally released its five year strategic plan, several months after it was originally slated.

AARnet chief executive Chris Hancock, first sketched out the five year plan late last year, and had expected it to be signed off by the board in 2010. However extensive consultation with its research and academic stakeholders meant the plan was only agreed earlier this year, but it has now been released - although it remains light on detail and just sets out the broad intent of the organisation.

Mr Hancock said the extensive consultation over the five year plan had been needed in order to properly respond to the dramatic changes in requirements from universities and research organisations which were seeking much more in the way of communications networks and services to underpin collaboration, mobility and to deal with high volume data transmissions.

In terms of sheer capacity demand he offered the example of the ANU which was sending climate change data to the US based Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at rates of up to 5 Gigabits per second.

Mr Hancock said that as part of the five year plan the current AARnet 3 would be replaced by AARnet 4 which would operate at backbone speeds of up to 100 Gbps and which would be implemented in 2013-14. However he declined to say how much that network might cost.

Seen as something of a proof of concept for what might be possible over the national broadband network, AARnet yesterday concluded an agreement with NBN Co which will see it establish trials in NBN early release sites including Armidale, Townsville and Brunswick to effectively act as an ISP and use the NBN to connect university researchers living in those areas to their universities and then to the AARnet.

In terms of the sheer demand for network capacity Mr Hancock said it was doubling each year, with demand for AARnet's off peak services (now available between 5pm and 9am) increasing 250 per cent in the last year.

He said that a planned trial of a terabit per second connection, in association with the CSIRO had now been expanded to an 8 terabit per second trial scheduled for later this or early next year. He stressed that the trial would also be conducted over a long distance - 'across the Nullarbor' he said - to ensure it was robust enough for research applications.

 

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