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Brazilian researchers celebrate the country's entry into the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which develops the world's largest scientific project, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC); with EllaLink's new submarine fiber-optic cable - the first high-capacity one directly connecting Latin America to Europe - data transmission has gained nearly 40% in speed in relation to the previous route, via the USA

The Brazilian scientific community has one more reason to celebrate Brazil's entry into the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) - which was formalized March 3, 2022, after 12 years of negotiation, in an event in Geneva (Switzerland) with the participation of the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Marcos Pontes.

CERN runs the largest scientific project of today, involving 10 thousand researchers from more than 100 countries - the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the particle accelerator located in an underground tunnel of 27 km in circumference on the border between France and Switzerland.

Besides participating in new projects with CERN, Brazilian scientists who had already been participating in research with the LHC will have a gain of almost 40% in data exchange speed with the European research center thanks to EllaLink's new fiber optic submarine cable - the first high capacity one directly connecting Latin America to Europe, which began operating last June. Tests conducted in August confirmed the improved performance and decreased latency (response time when sending data). Until then, the data exchange was made through cables that passed through the USA.

The scientists, who have been participating in research with the LHC since 2006, are connected to the São Paulo Research and Analysis Center (SPRACE) - a project funded by Fapesp and installed at the Scientific Computation Center (NCC) of Unesp (São Paulo State University "Júlio de Mesquita Filho").

With the new EllaLink submarine fiber optic cable coming into operation, SPRACE scientists now have technological gains in data exchange due to the differentials offered by the new cable - among them, an infrastructure that guarantees a very high speed, high performance connection (up to 100 terabits per second), besides the reduction in communication delay (low latency) between Brazil and Europe, without having to pass through North America. As the experiments at the LHC generate large amounts of data that need to be passed on to research centers spread across dozens of countries, a low latency connection is decisive.

"By becoming an associate member of CERN, Brazil will reinvigorate this area of research, while being able to engage its industry in projects of great technological scope. However, this will depend on the level and constancy of funding for scientific research in the country" says Sérgio Novaes, SPRACE's principal researcher and a member of the committee that started the process of Brazil joining CERN in 2009.

Latency difference, in milliseconds, in data traffic via USA (yellow) and direct between Brazil and Europe.

In August, a test confirmed the transmission of large amounts of data with half the latency of the new cable in relation to the previous connection between researchers at Unesp and the LHC, which was made via USA.  The test was carried out by the SPRACE team, which houses one of the groups of Brazilian researchers connected to CERN, associated to the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) collaboration of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). During the experiments performed on the new submarine cable, data were transmitted between São Paulo and Lisbon, where the Laboratory for Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics (LIP) is located, and between São Paulo and CERN's facilities. 

The São Paulo research center and the European research centers are currently connected with a link via the USA with a maximum rate limited to 10 Gbps, and by this route they have only been able to achieve an effective transmission rate of 6 Gbps, due to the difficulty of maintaining the link error-free and at high performance. The experimental connection between the centers using EllaLink cable reached 100 gigabits per second in a stable manner, providing a 40% performance gain over the US route. The full test can be viewed at https://youtu.be/t8A-7rFItBA?t=1186.

"With the reduced path, preventing data from passing through the United States, the time for a data packet to travel from São Paulo to the CERN facility and back fell, in average values, from 0.256 second to 0.106 second, less than half the previous value".

Rafael Lozano, EllaLink's Brazil Manager.

For scientists, who deal with large amounts of data, reducing latency is essential. In its experiments, the LHC performs collisions of high energy proton "clusters" every 25 nanoseconds. "These collisions are monitored by hundreds of millions of sensors installed in four large detectors and the result is the estimated annual production of 30 petabytes of raw data," explains systems engineer Rogério Iope, from Unesp, who coordinated the actions that made the experimental connection using EllaLink possible.

To process so much data, CERN uses a distributed computing system, the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, which mobilizes 300 thousand processing units spread over data processing centers in 40 countries, including Brazil. "Each year, SPRACE receives the equivalent of 9 petabytes of raw data to process, and returns 3 petabytes of processed data to CERN," adds Iope. According to him, without a sophisticated computing structure, it would take decades for researchers to process the data that the LHC generates.

Part of the EllaLink cable's capacity is used by the BELLA (Building the Europe Link to Latin America) consortium, formed by European (Géant) and Latin American (RedCLARA) research and education communities, which needed a fiber optic network that could support the transmission of large amounts of data with low latency to exchange information and studies on various subjects.

A total of 41 countries are part of Géant, a pan-European research and education network. RedCLARA, a Latin American collaboration and development space for education, science and innovation, shares 7.7 petabytes of research data among its 13 member countries - 1 petabyte equals 1015 bytes. The National Education and Research Network (RNP), a Social Organization (OS) linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI), is part of RedCLARA.

Besides CERN, other major scientific projects have their data and results shared in real time by the BELLA consortium, with the help of the EllaLink cable. One of them is Copernicus, the European Union's Earth Observation Program. Created and developed by the EU, the system collects, monitors, and provides diverse information from the planet, including air quality, ozone layer status and ultraviolet radiation, surface emissions and fluxes, solar radiation, and greenhouse gases.

It was Copernicus that was responsible, for example, for detecting a decrease in air pollution during the coronavirus pandemic.

The European astronomy and particle physics scientific community, meanwhile, has the same benefit from the data provided by the optical and radio telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, among them the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA).

"While the EllaLink cable is designed to facilitate commercial operations between Latin America and Europe involving digital business, cloud services, electronic banking, entertainment media, and online gaming, we find it encouraging that low latency data transmission between the two continents brings so many benefits to the scientific and academic community," Lozano says.

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