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Pan-European research and education network awards major contracts to Infinera and Imtech to stay ahead of big data needs

40 million researchers and millions of students across Europe are set to benefit from the fastest available data transfers, thanks to a major investment in the pan-European GÉANT research and education network. The migration to the latest transmission and switching technology is designed to support up to 2Tbps (terabits per second) capacity across the core network, effectively future-proofing Europe’s critical network up until 2020. 500Gbps capacity will be available across the core network from first implementation, delivering circuits across Europe that will allow individual users to transfer data at speeds of up to 100Gbps thereby enabling faster collaboration on critical projects and meeting the rapidly increasing demand for data transfer.

To achieve this major step forward GÉANT, built and operated by DANTE on behalf of Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), today announced the award of four-year contracts to Infinera and Imtech, to respectively provide the transmission equipment and switching platform to comprehensively upgrade the 50,000km GÉANT backbone network.

In a joint statement, Matthew Scott and Niels Hersoug, joint General Managers of DANTE said, “GÉANT’s objective is to underpin European research and this major new investment will ensure we continue to provide a network and services that  meet changing needs.  Our new network will meet the requirement for rapidly growing bandwidth from the Research and Education community, providing a scalable platform well into the future for research collaboration across Europe and beyond, as well as acting as a testbed for the latest technology and innovation.”

Co-funded by the European Union and Europe’s NRENs, GÉANT interconnects national research and educational networks to enable international collaboration between researchers, students and academics.

The network architecture is based on two types of equipment – optical transmission and data packet switching. The procurement was therefore split into two groups. Infinera was selected to provide optical transmission equipment lighting all the dark fibre in the GÉANT backbone network, whilst Imtech will provide the data packet switching platform using Juniper equipment. These contracts follow extensive architectural and design work, technology investigation, and a rigorous evaluation and procurement process involving DANTE and its NREN partners that began in 2011. Rollout of the new technology will begin in Q2 2012.

A number of factors are combining to drive a data deluge that is impacting research networks, high performance computing (HPC) and grids – collectively known as e-infrastructures.  Major projects involving partners worldwide, such as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, generate enormous amounts of data that needs to be distributed, analysed, stored and accessed for analysis. The need for high speed, stable transfer of data depends heavily on the high speed and dedicated bandwidth offered by research networks.

In the new network, data flows of up to 100Gbps per user will be supported, with the added benefit of making it easier for users to dynamically access the bandwidth they need, speeding up data transfer, collaboration and consequently the research results.

Ivan Maric, chair of the GÉANT Executive Committee stated, “e-infrastructures in Europe are vital to foster research and innovation for the benefit of society.  I'm thrilled by this milestone, which allows the GÉANT network to continue to serve the research and education community, with ever increasing speed and efficiency. It has been a pleasure to participate in this impressive achievement, reached by deep commitment of DANTE and all the European NRENs. I look forward to the full deployment of Terabit networking in the years to come.”

Michael Enrico, DANTE CTO, adds, “After an extensive procurement process Infinera and Imtech demonstrated the best match for our stringent criteria, combining leading edge technology with ease of use and a vision for the future that matches our needs moving forward. We look forward to working closely with them to deliver the benefits of this highly advanced network to our 40 million plus users across Europe.”