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FAST protocol supercharges networks

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Boffins at California Institute of Technology are looking at ways of refining Internet protocols to achieve greatly increased transmission rates.

By using FAST (Fast Active queue-management Scalable TCP), rather than the ubiquitous TCP/IP protocol, scientists have trebled the rate at which data can be sent over the Internet, Naturereports today.

Essentially, FAST throttles transmission speeds when errors are encountered far more elegantly than is possible with TCP/IP. In tests using existing hardware and networks, Nature reportsFAST has "run the international links between labs at more than 95 per cent efficiency," .

Nature categorises FAST as software, but it's actually a protocol. CalTech supplies a better and more detailed overview here.

The development of FAST as still at its early stages (although the concept has kicking around the more esoteric branches of the IEEE for some months). In particular, tests on interaction with other forms of traffic on the Internet need to be carried out, to ensure the protocol does not hog connections or cause other unfortunate side-effects.

For now this is very much a technology for nuclear scientists and the like to transfer large files over dedicated networks. Don't go expecting your broadband connection to speed up anytime soon.

Nonetheless this seems to be a fruitful avenue of research and we await developments with interest. ®

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