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Bold Idea For 'big Data'

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An artist's representation of an energy-efficient optical network.

Rice University computer networking researchers are taking on "big data" with a customized, energy-efficient optical network called BOLD that will be capable of feeding rivers of data to Rice's supercomputers.

Credit: Rice University/

The U.S. National Science Foundation recently gave a team of Rice University researchers a grant to develop the Big data and Optical Lightpaths-Driven Network Systems Research Infrastructure (BOLD), which is a customized, energy-efficient optical network that can feed massive amounts of data into Rice's supercomputers.

"Above all, for this network design to be appealing to industry, it has to be energy-efficient, scalable and nonintrusive to the end user," says Rice University professor T.S. Eugene Ng.

BOLD will rely on optical data-networking switches, which have much higher capacity than typical electronic switches that are used mostly in Internet data centers. "Optical networking devices consume very little power and can support enormous data rates, but they must first be configured, for example, by moving microelectromechanical mirrors into position, to establish a circuit," Ng says.

BOLD will be a hybrid network that combines electronic and optical switches. It also will contain new silicon-photonic switches that do not have the delays of traditional switches. "To make use of these three types of technology, we need an intelligent layer that can analyze data flow and demand, all the way up to the application layer, and dynamically allocate network resources in the most efficient way," Ng says.

From Rice University
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