Last week, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, announced the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center (TOEC), which will work on making the Internet a thousand times faster than it is today. TOEC's researchers are designing an optical fiber that would enable the next generation Ethernet, allowing it to handle 1 trillion bits (Terabit) per second by 2015 and 100Tbps by 2020. Agilent Technologies, Google, Intel, Rockwell Collins, and Verizon are all partnering with the center on its Ethernet Terabit networking effort.

Internet traffic requirements double every two years. With streaming video becoming more and more popular, not to mention the expectations for Internet traffic thanks to cloud computing and mobile phone use, we're not surprised. The solution lies in fiber optics, which is based on glass fibers (the size of human hair) that carry signals throughout the world by sending light over long distances. The efficiency breaks down when routers are used to convert the optical signals to electrical ones and then convert the signals back again for transmission. The capacity of fiber optics cables needs a boost to stay up to speed with our increasing Internet diet. Fiber optics revolutionized telephone communications and researchers are hoping it will do the same for Internet speed.

"We're going to need much faster networking to handle the explosion in Internet traffic and support new large-scale applications like cloud computing," Daniel Blumenthal, Director of TOEC, said in a statement. "Our goal is to make energy-saving technologies that will allow applications and the underlying networks to continue to scale as needed. You could think of it as greening future networks, and the systems that rely on those networks." To achieve Ethernet at 100Tbps, fundamental improvements in the underlying technologies will be required, he adds. "We're going to need dramatic breakthroughs across multiple disciplines, not only in the core Ethernet technologies but in Ethernet-based networking and in the engineering and measurement systems used to develop and test these new technologies."