BERKELEY, Calif. – The Internet has changed nearly every aspect of society, from how we communicate to how we conduct business and, in the case of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories, to how we carry out scientific research.

At the same time, this transformation has also pushed the physical limits of the networking infrastructure, from the optical fibers that carry the data to the protocols that ensure data is delivered to the right destination.

As scientific research becomes increasingly data-intensive and globally collaborative, the ability to quickly and reliably share enormous data sets is critical. To accelerate large data sharing and scientific discovery, the U.S. Department of Energy’s ESnet (Energy Sciences Network) is now operating the world’s fastest science network.

ESnet, managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, now serves the entire national laboratory system, its supercomputing centers, and its major scientific instruments at 100 gigabits per second – 10 times faster than its previous generation network. The network upgrade went active just before the end of 2012.

“In January 1983, the Internet was launched into operation on a 50 Kb/s ARPANET backbone. Thirty years later, ESnet backbone speeds are two million times faster,” said ESnet Policy Board member Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist and Internet pioneer. “Terabit speeds are in sight and faster aggregate speeds can be anticipated; talk about riding a rocket!”

“The upgrade, funded by DoE’s Office of Science, comes just in time,” said ESnet Director Greg Bell, who also leads Berkeley Lab’s Scientific Networking Division.

Bell said ESnet traffic doubles every 18 months, roughly twice as fast as the commercial Internet. Based on analysis of its traffic over the years and future plans, he explained that the amount of data carried by ESnet will reach more than 100 petabytes per month by 2016. Added Bell, “ESnet is becoming something more than a network infrastructure – it’s now an extension of the experimental facilities it serves, and a vital component in the process of discovery.”

Advanced networking, much like advanced computing, is a critical component for the broad collaborations that are behind many great discoveries. ESnet’s move to 100G connectivity is important as projects like the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey and Dark Energy Survey, for examples, generate unprecedented amounts of data.

ESnet partnered with Internet2, the advanced networking and technology community that connects America’s universities and research institutions and extends connectivity to research networks worldwide, to deploy its 100G network over a new, highly-scalable optical infrastructure that the two organizations now share.

“Big data science and collaborative research are the current and future reality,” said Internet2 President and CEO Dave Lambert.

To pave the way for the production network, last year ESnet announced the completion of a 100G prototype network funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which connected the three leading DoE Office of Science supercomputing sites as a proof of concept. With the 100G national network now in full production across its entire footprint, the ESnet team also is currently moving to upgrade individual lab connections.

“100G is just the beginning,” closed Bell. “Because we can scale far beyond that capacity on the underlying optical platform we have invested in with Internet2, ESnet will continue to serve DoE science for years to come.”