Web100 project to boost performance of research networks

November 01, 2000

Partners in a new research collaboration are developing software that automatically "tunes" computer operating systems to fully exploit available network bandwidth.

Designed to give scientists desktop access to transmission rates of 100 million bits per second, the Web100 Project is a joint effort of researchers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a three-year,$2.9 million award to the team.

Most researchers today have access to networks whose peak performance is 100 megabits per second (Mbs) or higher. In practice, however, the networks rarely exceed three Mbs due to inefficiency often related to the user's operating system and its applications.

"Progress in network access and electronic interaction utilizing the Internet requires more than increased bandwidth," said Aubrey Bush, director for the NSF's Division of Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research. "A real challenge now is providing end-to-end performance. This project will address some key network issues that limit Internet performance and work toward effectively removing barriers. The goal is to better take advantage of available resources."

The Web100 Project will seek to optimize long-distance networks' use of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) - a key Internet standard - whose performance can be inhibited by poor communication between the network, the desktop operating system and the user's applications.

"The Web100 Project seeks to provide solutions to the bandwidth delay-product problem," said Basil Irwin, senior network engineer at NCAR, "by automatically and transparently optimizing TCP's transmit and receive buffer sizes using congestion feedback information extracted from actual network conditions as they are reflected in the host's TCP code execution."

The PSC is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with the Westinghouse Electric Company. It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.

NCAR was established in 1960 to serve as a focus for research on atmospheric and related science problems.

NCSA began operations in 1986 to implement experimental supercomputing and high-performance computing systems and networks and to develop innovative applications in high performance computing, visualization, and desktop software.
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For more about the Web100 Project, see: http://www.web100.org/ For more about ANIR, see: http://cise.nsf.gov/anir/

***NSF is an independent federal agency which supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of about $4 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states, through grants to about 1,600 universities and institutions nationwide. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards.

Media contacts:
NSF: Tom Garritano
703-292-8070
tgarrita@nsf.gov

PSC: Sean Fulton
412-268-7141
sfulton@psc.edu

Program contact:
Aubrey Bush
703-292-0621
abush@nsf.gov

National Science Foundation
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