Researchers tout warp-speed web technology

Reorganising how optical signals are sent using a system called flow switching could speed up the internet by 100 – or even 1,000 – times, according to research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Researchers tout warp-speed web technology

The idea is the result of several years of research by a team of MIT researchers lead by Professor Vincent Chan, who is set to present his latest paper next month.

Optical signals are more efficient than electrical ones, but because they’re harder to control, there’s still room for improvement, Chan says.

Currently, optical signals are converted to electrical ones so routers can handle them while deciding where to send them. They are then converted back to optical in order to be sent.

Chan’s idea is to dedicate a network path between two places sending large amounts of data, such as cities, with all the signal travelling in the same direction. Therefore, it wouldn’t need to be converted, saving time and energy, especially over busy, long-haul routes.

“This will ultimately allow access of high-rate services to the masses sooner than current trends would otherwise allow,” he said in his paper.

Similar systems are already in place in many big web companies, but to make it work on the open internet will take better network management, as any dedicated paths will be wasted if nothing is travelling that way.

Chan is working on a way to easily manage such paths, so they can be added and dropped as needed.

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