The internet could soon be made obsolete by a new “grid” system which is 10,000 times faster than broadband connections.
Scientists in Switzerland have developed a lightning-fast replacement to the internet that would allow feature films and music catalogues to be downloaded within seconds.
The invention could signal the end of the dreaded ‘frozen screen’, when computers seize up after being asked to process too much information.
The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the internet, the grid could also provide the power needed to send sophisticated images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.
David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technology could change society.
He said: “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine.”
The power of the grid will be unlocked this summer with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a new particle accelerator designed to investigate how the universe began.
The grid will be turned on at the same time to store the information it generates, after scientists at Cern, based near Geneva, realised the internet would not have the capacity to capture such huge volumes of data.
The grid has been built with fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data, unlike the internet.
There are 55,000 grid servers already installed, a figure which is expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.
Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said: “We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at Cern.
“The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries.”
Britain has 8,000 servers on the grid system, meaning access could be available to universities as early as this autumn.
By Lewis Carter
Last Updated: 2:12am BST 09/04/2008