While such data rates would no doubt appeal to downloaders looking to bolster their movie collection - at such speeds you'd be able move two million gigabytes per day, or nearly 100,000 full Blu-ray discs - the researchers are more focused on providing scientists with access to the huge amounts of data produced by high-end physics experiments, such as those being carried out at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Using a global grid of 300 computing and storage facilities located at laboratories and universities around the world, more than 100 petabytes of data from the LHC has already been processed, distributed, and analyzed. But that volume is expected to rise a thousand-fold as physicists crank up the collision rates and energies at the LHC.
The team says the new data transfer record will help usher in the next generation of high-speed network technology that will be built in the next couple of years and will help establish new ways to transport the increasingly large quantities of data transmitted across continents and under oceans via global networks of optical fiber. In contrast to existing fiber optic networks that have a top data transfer rate of around 1 Gbps, these next generation networks will be capable of transfer rates of 40 to 100 Gbps.
"Enabling scientists anywhere in the world to work on the LHC data is a key objective, bringing the best minds together to work on the mysteries of the universe," says David Foster, the deputy IT department head at CERN.
The record-breaking demonstration saw an array of 10 DELL servers at the University of Victoria Computing Centre connected with servers on the conference floor in Seattle via a 100-Gbps circuit set up by Canada's Advanced Research and Innovation Network (CANARIE) and BCNET, a non-profit, shared IT services organization.
The team consisted of high-energy physicists, computer scientists, and network engineers, and was led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of Victoria, the University of Michigan, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), Florida International University, and other partners.
But the 186 Gbps combined data transfer rate pales in comparison to the 26 Tbps rate achieved by scientists at Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) earlier this year. However, that achieved using a single laser beam over a distance of 31 miles (50 km), while the latest record-breaking feat was accomplished over distances of over 130 miles (212 km) using fiber optic cable.