New Web Protocol May Leave DSL in the Dust

@ 2004/04/17
With the click of a BIC, speeding along the information superhighway may begin to feel like zooming down Germany's no-holds-barred Autobahn.
BIC-TCP (binary increase congestion transmission control protocol) is a new data-transfer protocol that "makes today's high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) connections seem lethargic," say computer science researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Lots of SLAC

In a recent Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) study, BIC-TCP "consistently topped the rankings in a set of experiments that determined its stability, scalability and fairness in comparison with other protocols," explained NCSU spokesperson Jon Pishney.

SLAC researchers tested six other new protocols from such universities as the California Institute of Technology and University College, London.

"BIC can achieve speeds roughly 6,000 times that of DSL and 150,000 times that of current 56K modems," said NCSU computer science professor Injong Rhee, who developed the protocol with fellow NCSU colleagues Khaled Harfoush and Lisong Xu.

The new super-speed protocol would be useful to "many national and international computing labs now involved in large-scale scientific studies of nuclear and high-energy physics, astronomy, geology and meteorology," Pishney added.

Typically, Rhee said, "data are collected at a remote location and need to be shipped to labs where scientists can perform analyses and create high-performance visualizations of the data" that may include satellite images or climate models.

"Receiving the data and sharing the results can lead to massive congestion of current networks -- even on the newest wide-area high speed networks, such as ESNet (Energy Sciences Network), which was created by the U.S. Department of Energy specifically for these types of scientific collaborations," explained Harfoush.

From New Protocol to Old Proto-Cold

TCP is so 80s it may be obsolete today.

"TCP was originally designed in the 1980s when Internet speeds were much slower and bandwidths much smaller. Now we are trying to apply it to networks that have several orders of magnitude more available bandwidth," Rhee told NewsFactor.

"Essentially, we're using an eyedropper to fill a water main," Harfoush added. "BIC, on the other hand, would open the floodgate."

Living up to its name, BIC gets its speed from a binary search approach -- a common way to search databases -- that rapidly detects maximum network capacities with minimal information loss.

"What takes TCP two hours to determine, BIC can do in less than one second," Rhee said. "While this might translate into music downloads in the blink of an eye, the true value of such a super-powered protocol is a real eye-opener."

Rhee and his colleagues have high hopes for the BIC protocol, which they believe "might even help avoid a national disaster."

For example, Pishney told NewsFactor, "the recent blackout that affected large areas of the eastern United States and Canada underscored the need to spread data-rich backup systems across hundreds of thousands of miles."

With network speeds doubling roughly annually, "performances demonstrated by the new protocol could become commonly available in the next few years, setting a new standard for full utilization of the Internet," Rhee said

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