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5 Second Movie Downloads

by April 07, 2008
Its only a cable away...

It's only a cable away...

It may not be around the corner, but it looks like it is possible. Researchers at European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) - the people that brought you HTML and the World Wide Web - are trying to discover the Higgs boson - the particle that supposedly gives matter mass. What they need to do this is two things - a great big particle accelerator and a way of collecting and storing a MASSIVE amount of data. It seems that when they figured out that their new accelerator would be putting out the equivalent to 56 million CDs a year, they would need a new way to collect it. They couldn't use the WWW for fear of a global collapse (very kind of them) so they needed a new system.

Enter "the Grid". The Grid is 10,000 times faster than normal broadband which means that you could theoretically download a full length movie (normally taking 3 hours) in five seconds. Now that's fast! How is this possible? Simple - fiber optics. While the Internet as we know it uses traditional land lines designed for telephone use, the Grid uses fiber optic cable which speeds up data transmission incredibly.

The problem that CERN had was that they needed to get the data out of CERN as fast as possible. There weren't even sure if they would have enough electricity to run all the computers they'd need if they were all housed at CERN. So they developed the Grid as a way of getting the data off site to other universities and research institutions. This currently gives CERN a network of 8000 servers on the Grid in England alone with more in the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe. Theoretically, students at these universities could connect to the Grid rather than the Internet (though they are run in tandem and don't have access to each other.

The scientists at CERN believe that the Grid could be so quick, and its ability to share computing power so powerful, that people would store their data on the Grid and not on local computers. Google and Microsoft will be all over this... This raises all sorts of issues of data security. For anyone that has had their computer freeze up for a period of time while performing a computationally difficult task, the shared computing ability of the Grid should make such phenomenon a thing of the past. With researchers at CERN trying to understand the origin of mass and what is the dark matter in the universe, one must believe that if they can market the Grid, they should just about break even on that $8 billion dollar Large Hadron Collider they built.

Infrastructure is obviously the biggest obstacle to wide scale US adoption. Verizon's Fios system (which is Fiber Optic based) is currently being installed in limited markets but there are plenty of people that are still using dial up connections. Places like Japan may have already adopted Fiber Optics on a large scale but the rest of the world still has a way to go.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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