SURF glides to 800Gbps transmission on existing fibre through Nokia

Comms tech provider and Dutch research organisation reach 800Gbps transmission over 1,648km existing fibre link to prepare for upgrade to connect to research facilities at world’s leading particle accelerator

The collaborative organisation for IT in Dutch education and research, SURF, has teamed up with Nokia to successfully trial a single-carrier 800Gbps optical transmission over its existing cross-border, multi-supplier research and education fibre network infrastructure in preparation for a higher capacity network that is needed for the forthcoming upgrade to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN particle accelerator, for which it is a contributing research partner.

The fibre link is part of the SURF network, which connects national research and education institutes in the Netherlands, such as Nikhef, the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics. Additionally, the SURF network is also connected to other research networks and experiments worldwide, including the LHC Optical Private Network (LHCOPN). The LHCOPN provides access to data at the LHC at CERN, whose discovery of the Higgs boson has revolutionised the world’s understanding of the universe.

The trial was conducted over a 1,648km point-to-point fibre link connecting Amsterdam and Geneva, crossing Belgium and France. In it, CERN, Nikhef, SURF and the Atlas LHC experiment – one of two general-purpose detectors at the LHC – collaborated to include real production workflows that are expected when the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) becomes operational in 2029.

The upgrade is intended to provide more insightful research results, improve the potential for ground-breaking discoveries and produce enormous amounts of scientific data. Indeed, the HL-LHC is expected to generate data at a rate of five times the speed of its predecessor. It will depend on advances in SURF’s high-performance network, as demonstrated in this trial, to enable fast and reliable data transfer to the NL T1 for further scientific exploration.

The future HL-LHC is expected to reveal even deeper insights into the fundamental building blocks of the cosmos. Based on Nokia’s photonic service engine technology, the new transmission benchmark is designed to help accelerate the anticipated massive data exchange between the CERN particle accelerator and the NL Tier-1 (NL T1) research IT facilities at SURF and Nikhef.

By reaching 800Gbps per channel on older fibre varieties, Nokia and SURF have proven that existing infrastructure still has tremendous potential and that legacy optical fibres can be used to meet future capacity demands of the huge data streams generated by international scientific research instruments.

Nokia’s sixth-generation super-coherent Photonic Service Engine (PSE-6s) was deployed on the Amsterdam-Geneva link, in combination with SURF’s line system, with equipment from a third party on an older fibre link, achieving 800Gbps transmission using 16QAM-shaped PCS modulation. By focusing on the testing of new technologies with various suppliers, and through the adoption of advanced technology in its network, Nokia said SURF can ensure optimal service and support for the innovative, data-intensive projects of its research partners.

“We are proud to collaborate with Nokia and Nikhef in this successful innovative trial that pushes the limits of our existing fibre and shows us what is possible,” said Ron Augustus, chief innovation officer and member of the board at SURF.

“This trial is an important milestone for us as we prepare our network for the future demands of scientific research and education, including the upgrade of CERN’s particle accelerator. By emphasising testing and the adoption of advanced technology, SURF ensures optimal service and support for its research partners’ innovative, data-heavy projects and applications,” he added.

Nikhef IT-architect Tristan Suerink said the 800Gbps technology demonstrated by SURF and Nokia showed that getting the data from the HL-LHC at CERN to Amsterdam was feasible.

“Nikhef is working hard to design and build the detectors that will be part of the HL-LHC and therefore it’s crucial to be able to transfer the massive amounts of data that will be generated by the experiments,” he said. “Working together with Nokia and SURF on this innovative trial gave us a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of what’s possible in the near future.”

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