Coming Soon: Defense’s New 100 Gigabit Supercomputer Network

By Bob Brewin

April 24, 2013

CenturyLink has started work on a contract with a maximum value of $750 million to stitch together Defense Department supercomputer centers with a 100-gigabits-per-second network.

CenturyLink won the Defense Information Systems Agency contract on June 8, 2012, but the award was delayed by a protest from Verizon Business, which had held the high speed network contract since 2002.

Diana Gowen, CenturyLink’s senior vice president and general manager for government business, said DISA re-awarded her company the Defense Research Engineering Network III, or DREN III, contract in Dec. 2012, but her company did not at that time receive clearance to issue a press release or talk about the network, which serves as the backbone of the Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program.

Gowen said the DREN III high-speed fiber optic network will span 5,000 miles, from the Army Research Laboratory, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to the Maui High Performance Computing Center in Kihei, Hawaii, and 148 other Defense, NASA and Energy Department supercomputer centers. DREN III will provide a 40 percent increase in the speed of the current Defense supercomputing network, which has a maximum data rate of 2.4888 gigabits per second.

Extensions to the DREN network allow customers in remote Alaska to access high performance computing resources in the rural Midwest. “High bandwidth wide area networks (WAN) transfer data between supercomputing centers close to real-time,” according to a fact sheet from the High Performance Computing Modernization Program.

Gowen said CenturyLink has a backbone network that will meet the DREN III requirements, except for circuits to Hawaii, and added it will also be connected to a high-speed Internet 2 research network that connects 60,000 U.S. educational, research and government institutions over its 100 gigabit network.

Gowen said she expects DREN III to meet its goal of hooking up Defense users by December.

John West, director of the High Performance Computing Modernization Program, said in a statement that “DREN is an essential component of our program, connecting defense researchers located throughout the country with the department’s supercomputing resources.” 

(Image via Dario Lo Presti/

By Bob Brewin

April 24, 2013