CERN feels the force

10 Gig networks and grid farm for european research lab

It’s 10Gig-a-go-go at CERN, which is building an inter-continental high-speed WAN and a very high performance grid computing farm, both of which will make extensive use of 10Gig ethernet.

The grid computing farm will cluster 6,000 processors and 2,000 storage devices, and is expected to yield a massive 2.4Tbit/s of processing power for CERN, the European particle physics laboratory.

The project is a big win for 10Gig ethernet pioneer Force 10 Networks, whose TeraScale E-series of switch/routers will become the hub of the new CERN campus network. Each E-series box can support up to 672 line-rate Gigabits, 1260 copper Gig ports, or 56 line-rate 10Gig ethernet ports. Force 10 said this port density would allow Geneva-based CERN to use fewer boxes and simplify its network.

As well as the 10Gig high performance computing core, the famous particle physics laboratory will use 10Gig to link up computing resources and experiments across its campus.

It will also deploy 10Gig ethernet WAN connections to more than ten universities and other international sites. It has already tested 10Gig ethernet running halfway round the world and built a 100-site grid spanning 31 countries.

“CERN was looking for a partner that could provide and support a very high performance networking solution,” says David Foster, communications, systems and networking group leader. He adds that the keys factors that helped Force 10 win in an open competitive bid were resilience, density and scalability — CERN wants a network that it can rely on beyond 2010.

Michael Augustine, Force 10’s European sales VP, claims that as well as having multiple CPUs to provide carrier-class reliability, the TeraScale’s backplane is ready for 40Gig and 100Gig ethernet, which provides that long-term scalability. Although, at the rate nuclear physicists grow their data volumes, “long” is a somewhat elastic term.

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