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March 21, 2013

UCSD’s Big Data Freeway

Ryan Hill

In 2004, the University of California, San Diego created Quartzite, a communications infrastructure for researchers across the La Jolla, Calif., campus to use. Now, UCSD is raising the bar with its more advanced optical computer network, Prism.

Funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers in the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) have created the network to help researchers across the university access the data they need to complete their projects.

Prism is being used as a bypass network so the massive amount of information won’t crash the campus’s main network, which is based on a 10-billion bit capacity. Prism can carry 20 times the traffic of Quartzite, along with 100 times the bandwidth of the main campus network.

UCSD is relying on Prism to free up congestion on the main network by shifting traffic from researchers in the most data-heavy fields onto the new network, where they can work with massive sets of data and leave the main campus infrastructure free for the other 30,000 people that use the network.

“You can think of Prism as the HOV lane,” said Philip Papadopoulos, principal investigator on the Prism@UCSD project, “whereas our very capable campus network represents the slower lanes on the freeway.”

Employing a next-generation Arista Networks 7405 switch-router, which has triple the energy efficiency and four times the capacity of Quartzite’s switch, Prism will be expanding the existing Calit2-SDSC optical-fiber connection from 50 to 120Gbps, lengthening the bandwidth to one trillion bits per second. This will allow labs all over UCSD to share large amounts of data with each other. The network is so large it’s being used as a sort of hybrid, with both production and experimental parts to it. The production side will focus on real-world use, while the experimental portion will let researches test out networking ideas for future breakthroughs.

If Prism is a success at UCSD and relieves traffic on the main network, the project will expand and explore ways to give other research labs access to the network, even if they aren’t on the UCSD campus.

Full story at The New York Times