March 19, 2001
Web100 Takes First Step Towards Improving Network Performance
PITTSBURGH The Web100 Project has distributed the initial version of software that aims to bring data-transmission rates of 100 megabits per second to users of high-speed networks. Select researchers at universities and government laboratories are getting a sneak peek at the Web100 software to do real-world testing and provide feedback to developers.
"Today's release of the Web100 software promises improved network performance at a time when bandwidth is increasingly precious," said Tom Greene, the Senior Program Director for Infrastructure in the National Science Foundation's Division of Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research. "This type of middleware can help us use existing resources more efficiently."
While most home users still connect to the Internet with a 56K modem, universities, research centers and some businesses today have connections capable of transmitting data at 100 megabits per second (Mbps) or higher. Research has shown, however, that users rarely see performance greater than three Mbps. Web100 researchers traced the problem to software that governs the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) a "language" that computers use to communicate across networks. Networking experts are able to overcome this limit by fine tuning connections with adjustments to TCP.
The Web100 software will eventually allow users to take full advantage of available network bandwidth without the help of a networking expert. Web100 programmers are refining TCP software in the Linux operating system to automatically achieve the highest possible transfer rate. "Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to move data across networks at 100 megabits per second or higher," said Matt Mathis, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center network research coordinator and one of the principal investigators of Web100.
Twenty-one researchers at ten institutions including Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory will test the initial release of Web100 software.
At the University of Michigan, for example, Brian Athey will test the Web100 software for use with the Visible Human Project. Athey is working with Art Wetzel at PSC to develop applications that allow students to view large Visible Human data-sets over high-speed networks. "In situations of marginal bandwidth availability," said Athey, "tuning could make the difference between a choppy and unusable 500 Kbps to 1 Mbps stream to a perfectly useful 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps stream."
The Web100 Project is a collaboration of Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. More information can be found at: http://www.web100.org/