Janet, a UK network backbone that links hundreds of academic institutions, has been given £30m in government funding to help it expand capacity.
The funding, announced on Thursday, will pay for an upgrade to Janet that will boost network capacity from around 1.3 Terabits per second to two, with potential to expand to 8 Terabits per second over the next five years.
The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is providing the funding for the upgraded network, to be called Janet6.
"I think it reflects the government's belief that this infrastructure is important for economic regeneration," Bob Day, Janet's chief technology officer, told ZDNet.
The upgrade will support scientists by giving them greater network capacity with which to share huge datasets, such as genome information or data generated by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
Network company SSE Telecoms has been awarded the contract to provide the fibre for the upgrade, while Ciena will provide the networking equipment - its 6,500 packet-optical platform with WaveLogic Coherent Optical Processors. The equipment will be fitted over the next year at a variety of SSE and non-SSE datacentres and universities.
Transferring to the new network
By April 2013 the equipment and fibre should be in place, at which point Janet will need to migrate its existing users from the old Janet network to the new one.
"I think it reflects the government's belief that this infrastructure is important for economic regeneration" — Bob Day
"The big overriding challenge is to ensure we don't have discontinuity of service", given Janet is a backbone network for UK higher education, Day said. Janet consists of around 30 separate regional networks and these will be moved over one at a time, Day added. "The challenge is to ensure we move each one across to the new backbone without causing any disruption to service."
Janet connects into the GEANT pan-European data network, which then connects through to other major academic regions like the Pacific Rim and North America.
The upgrade will benefit institutions outside the UK as well, according to Day. "Research and education are global businesses," he said. "One of the key things Janet does already and will continue to do so is be connected into other national research networks."