New Network Design Could Make the Internet 100 Times Faster

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A group of MIT researchers has demonstrated a method of network topology that could render the Internet 100 or even 1,000 times faster than it is today.

The “magic” behind the concept is to eliminate or reduce the most time-intensive part of data transmission, which involves converting an optical signal into an electrical signal for memory storage. Memory storage is required whenever multiple optical signals arrive at the same router at the same time, requiring said router to convert and store the extra signals coming in until they can be properly processed.

MIT professor Vincent Chan’s concept of “flow switching” obviates the need to convert and store data by converting high-traffic corridors into unidirectional pathways. In other words, a dedicated pathway between two big nodes in New York City and Los Angeles would send optical signals in only one direction, preventing multiple signals from arriving from different directions at once.

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This research has been ongoing for the past 20 years, with findings from new computer modeling of flow switching networks showing a potential 100- to 1,000-fold speed increase as well as significant power savings. Implementing the plan would be costly, requiring the replacement of large numbers of routers with new, optical-only models.

Still, with the advent and growing popularity of bandwidth-intensive applications like high-definition video streaming, moving to a flow switching network might start to make financial sense for Internet () service providers and tech companies.

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