European XFEL plans ultrahigh-speed network connection to Poland

Euroean XFEL press release: Data from experiments will also be processed at partner institute NCBJ in Otwock-Swierk.

European XFEL and the National Center for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in Otwock-Świerk near Warsaw plan to establish the first ultrahigh-speed connection for research data between Germany and Poland. The aim is for the new Supercomputing Center at NCBJ to be used for the processing and analysis of data generated at the European XFEL. The dedicated network connection between the DESY Computer Center, which hosts European XFEL’s primary data, and NCBJ will feature a data transfer rate of 100 gigabits per second (Gbit/s). With the exception of the higher-speed connection to DESY, that is approximately 100 times faster than the current typical Internet connection between European XFEL and other research institutes, through which the transfer of data for an average experiment at the facility would take about a month. In comparison, household high-speed Internet connections can typically manage about 250 Mbit/s for a download. This makes this new connection at least 400 times faster.

For the installation of the new high-speed data connection, the German National Research and Education Network (DFN), the Supercomputing and Networking Center at the Institute for Bioorganic Chemistry in Poznań (PSNC), the Research and Academic Computer Network National Research Institute (NASK), and Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) will also take part alongside European XFEL and NCBJ. At the end of May this year, the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will serve as the basis and starting point for establishing the new high-speed connection. It can largely be built on existing technical infrastructure, but certain specific components will have to be added. For example, the connection between the German and Polish research networks will be enabled by the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder and the neighbouring Polish city of Słubice.

The data connection to NCBJ will provide complementary resources to those hosted at the DESY Computing Centre, where all the experiment data from the European XFEL has so far been analysed and where the majority of the data processing will continue to be performed.

With the X-ray laser delivering up to 27 000 pulses every second, the facility’s fastest detectors currently enable the capture of up to 8000 high-resolution images per second. When combined with other data from the X-ray laser and instruments, a huge data stream results, requiring special management and analysis in order to ensure that scientific information is properly obtained. These data can reach up to a petabyte—equivalent to a million gigabytes (GB)—per week at peak user operation times. The analysis of this data forms the basis for determining the three-dimensional structure of molecules, investigating extremely fast processes with the help of so-called molecular movies, and studying new and ultrafast phenomena in the material sciences.

European XFEL Managing Director Robert Feidenhans’l said: “The collaboration with NCBJ in the area of data analysis is a ground-breaking step towards making research in Europe ever more closely connected. The additional computing resources will not only increase performance, but will also enable more operational flexibility, which is very welcome. We must increase the needed computing performance for our experiments, and we are happy that together with our partners NCBJ and DESY we have found an outstanding solution.”