PSC News Center

World's Fastest Network Launched to Connect TeraGrid Sites

PITTSBURGH, February 27, 2003 — Fiber optic links between Los Angeles and Chicago have been "lit up" to form the cross-country network backbone for the National Science Foundation's $88 million TeraGrid project. Technicians are sending the first test data packets racing across the network, which boasts an unprecedented bandwidth — roughly 10 million times the speed of a typical dial-up Internet connection and four times faster than existing research networks.

At 40 gigabits per second, the new "backplane," developed in partnership with Qwest Communications, will connect the resources of the TeraGrid, a multiyear effort to build and deploy the world's largest, fastest, distributed computing infrastructure for open scientific research. Scientists will use the TeraGrid to make fundamental discoveries in fields as varied as biomedicine, global climate, and astrophysics. The first applications will begin to use the TeraGrid capabilities from all sites this spring.

The TeraGrid partners are the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC); the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA); Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne); the Caltech Center for Advanced Computing Research (CACR); and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). When completed, the TeraGrid will include 20 teraflops of computing power, facilities capable of managing and storing nearly one petabyte of data, high-resolution visualization environments, and toolkits for grid computing.

The backplane consists of four 10 Gb/s optical fiber "lambdas" (light pipelines) running from a major Internet hub in Los Angeles to the StarLight hub in Chicago and three 10 Gb/s lambdas to each site. Juniper Networks provided the routers-- the first in the nation available to handle the combined 40 Gb/s fiber traffic.

"With our network operational, the scientific research community will soon gain access to a rich set of computing and data management resources and grid infrastructure that will transform computational science and engineering," said Dan Reed, director of NCSA and chief architect of the TeraGrid project. "This network backplane is optimized for the communication requirements of the largest scientific applications, and it will make possible the next generation of scientific breakthroughs."

"Our TeraGrid network will enable remote access to large-scale data collections, nationwide backups, and other critical activities for data-oriented computing," said Fran Berman, director of SDSC and chair of the TeraGrid Executive Committee.

Argonne's Linda Winkler, TeraGrid network architect, led the effort to design, select, and install the network. "A key design criterion was that all the TeraGrid resources appear to be part of a single facility," she said. "The vendors were selected to help us stay at the cutting edge. The design allows new sites to be connected to the TeraGrid network in the future."

"This is an historic, major step forward for our national cyberinfrastructure," said PSC scientific directors Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement. "This unprecedented bandwidth will facilitate work on many important projects, from biomedicine, storm forecasting, and climate change to fundamental physics and chemistry."

Qwest Communications provided the fiber lambdas for the TeraGrid network. "Qwest is delighted to reach this milestone in the creation of the NSF TeraGrid," said Wesley K. Kaplow, chief technology officer for Qwest's Government Services Division. "This is the culmination of three years of working with these research groups, supporting their goals with financial, conference, and network services."

Kaplow noted that Qwest was a founding supporter of the Global Grid Forum, which unites grid researchers worldwide, and that it has provided extensive network services for the annual Supercomputing Conference as well as support for other networking projects. "Qwest looks forward to this continuing relationship and the development of network and application technology that the TeraGrid will deliver," Kaplow said.

For more information on the NSF TeraGrid project, see


PSC News Center
All of PSC


Karen Green
National Center for Supercomputing Applications

Rex Graham
San Diego Supercomputer Center

Michael Schneider
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Mary Spada
Argonne National Laboratory

Sarah Emery Bunn

You can receive PSC news releases via e-mail. Send a blank e-mail to

News Archive:
2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993