Several years ago in anticipation of future needs, several hundred thousand miles of fiber optics was laid around the United States. While much of this goes unused even today, this "dark fiber" is beginning to pique interests as an untapped resource. In the case of Arizona State University (ASU) and a genetics research institute 10 miles away, it means the difference between 7 days of data transfer using copper wire, and less than one hour using dark fiber.
8,000 Gigabytes per hour
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is host to a new supercomputer used for DNA simulations, called Sanguaro 2, which was just installed on October 3, 2008. Capable of 50 trillion flops, Sanguaro 2 on a typical DNA simulation produces about 7 TB worth of data. Using their current interconnect speed over the 10 mile run (between TGen and ASU) at approximately 100 Mbps, it takes seven days to transmit run data to the analysis location on campus.
A company called Obsidian Strategics (which is not operated by the Obsidian Order for your Star Trek fans) is being tapped to create the massively parallel fiber optics interconnect based on InfiniBand technology, and specifically their Longbow series for long-haul data trafficing. When completed and the dark fiber illuminates, the new communications system will rival any other U.S. university, transmitting data at 17.8 Gbps over the full 10 miles - a speed about 192x faster than today's copper.
Once completed, the same 7 TB of data will be transmitted between TGen and ASU over parallel fiber in only 52.5 minutes. ASU and Obsidian will continue the expansion effort, joining forces with other universities to create a high-speed, multi-state network.
Throughout the 1990s, telecom companies, in anticipation of continued bandwidth growth resulting from the dot-com bubble, laid fiber in many key market segments. They were hoping to cash in on future increased bandwidth needs resulting from (then unknown) future services. After the dot-com crash in 2001, many of the companies owning dark fiber networks filed for bankruptcy protection, resulting in a huge unused asset in the United States. Since then, and with the significant limitation the U.S. has in broadband access and speeds, the laying of dark fiber has come to a near standstill.
As was reported in October, 2007, Google announced they were looking for under-sea dark fiber networks between the U.S. and Asia for their massive bandwidth needs. And Google has continued to buy up large quantities of dark fiber to continue growth.
In 2008, many other companies are looking for ways to decrease costs associated with their bandwidth use. By taking ownership of dark fiber lines, companies with large data traffic needs between nearby locations could actually save a small fortune by buying all of the equipment and servicing their own fiber lines.
Source: TG Daily