Scaling up – when computing meets optical transport

While we have been busy working towards a 100G ANI prototype wide area network (WAN), researchers at Intel are making sure that we have plenty to do in the future. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article ( on Intel demonstrating 50Gbps communication between chips with silicon-based lasers, is just the tip of the iceberg of competitive research looming in the arena of photon-electron integration.

50G Silicon Photonics Link (image from Intel white paper)

This demonstration from Intel (Kudos to them!) is a great reminder of how such innovations can revolutionize the computing model by making it easier to move large amounts of data between the chips on a motherboard or between thousands of multi-core processors, leading the way towards exascale computing.  Just imagine the multi-terabit fire hose of capacity ESnet would have to turn on to keep those chips satisfied! This seamless transition from electronics to photonics without dependence on expensive sets of photonic components has the potential to transform the entire computing industry and give an additional boost to the “Cloud” industry. Thomas J. Watson has been credited with saying “The world needs only five computers”. We look to be collecting the innovations to just prove him right one day.

While we do get excited about the fantastic future of silicon integration, I would like to point out the PIC (Photonic Integrated Chip) has been a great innovation by a company, Infinera, just down the Silicon Valley – they are actually mass-producing integrated lasers on a chip for a different application – long distance communication, by using a substrate material different than silicon. This technology is for real. You can get to play with the Infinera’s in our ANI testbed – you just need to come up with a cool research problem and write a proposal by October 1st, 2010.

Fire away!


August 4th, 2010

Computing at the Speed of Light – Read MIT Technology Review’s take on the same topic.

A note to our users: ESnet’s new ReadyTalk service launches July 30, 2010

At noon PST July 30, 2010 ESnet is switching audio/web conferencing infrastructure (Cisco MeetingPlace) to a commercial service provider – ReadyTalk Inc.

ReadyTalk audio/web conferencing is:

* Free, no reservations required, audio/web conferencing

* 24-hour customer care toll-free number

* Toll-free domestic and international access (over 100 countries) to audio conferencing

* Each account can accommodate to 96 ports

Current users funded by the DOE Office of Science will receive an email containing new account information from ReadyTalk shortly. User registration for new audio/web conferencing service starts July 30, 2010. The Cisco MeetingPlace audio bridge will continue to operate until September 30, 2010, 5 PM PST, but no new MeetingPlace registrations will be accepted after July 30th.

These changes only apply to audio conferencing services, not video. ESnet will upgrade the video conferencing infrastructure in the fall/winter 2010.  Got questions?  Drop us a note at In the meantime, check for updates and info at

We’ve got Yoo

Professor Ben Yoo

ESnet is pleased to announce that UC Davis Professor S.J. Ben Yoo has been granted a joint faculty appointment with Berkeley Lab, formalizing a long-term relationship.  Yoo will be collaborating on research projects with ESnet to develop Terabit optical networks of the future to meet the upcoming data challenges triggered by Exascale thinking within the DOE.  It is an interesting research challenge, including architecture studies, software developments and networking experiments on ESnet’s ANI testbed. Yoo will also be collaborating with LBNL researchers at NERSC for applications of optical networking within high-end data centers.

“Ben is the type of highly credentialed network research scientist that we hope will take full advantage of the testbed infrastructure we are making available to the community.” said Steve Cotter, head of ESnet.

In a talk this week at Joint Techs, Yoo discussed the potential of next generation all-optical Label Switching (OLS) networking, a technology he invented. OLS can seamlessly integrate packet, flow, and circuit traffic. OLS has the potential to fit well within the  industry standard MPLS and GMPLS architectures, and recent experimental results show very good characteristics like extremely low latency (<100 ns) and scalability beyond 40 petabit/sec capacity. It has experimentally demonstrated a per-channel line rate of 100 Gb/s ~ 1.2 Tb/s. A centralized management station can leverage OLS to rapidly assess data flows based on real time collections of labels that contain statistical information about the data traffic.

Yoo has done extensive research with the ATD-Monet testbed in the Washington DC area, telecommunications standardization services at Bellcore, and testbed work at the Sprint Advanced Technology Laboratory. You can get a better sense of his work and research here.

We look forward to working with him on our ANI testbed as well. Yoo’s intention is to push the testbed to its limits. Should be a wild ride.

Direct Wormhole to Google Cloud

Earlier this week our network engineers were presented with an interesting problem: researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were moving data in and out of the Google Cloud service, but it looked like the transfers were “slow”, running at a mere 1 gigabit per second. Most people wouldn’t call that slow – but we know that we can do better!

After some investigation, it turned out that all these transfers were going through a bottleneck in the network: an outdated 1Gbps connection to a commercial internet exchange located in San Jose, CA, that hasn’t yet been upgraded to the usual 10Gbps.

To resolve this, we decided to do a bit of traffic engineering: create a network “wormhole” that would suck in data from LBNL, move it through the Science Data Network, and drop it off to a different internet exchange point thousands of miles away – in Chicago, IL.

This is a picky wormhole, by the way; it will only suck in data that needs to travel between the researchers’ computers and Google Cloud, leaving other data flows alone. And, as long as the data is traveling in the wormhole, other traffic can’t cause any congestion that would limit throughput. We call these virtual circuits, and the OSCARS software developed here at ESnet provides the ability for our engineers to easily create and manage them.

Keith Jackson, a scientist in Advanced Computing for Science and Computational Research division at LBNL, had this to say:

”It was really impressive that we were able, in a matter of hours to set up a circuit and route this traffic to the Google cloud to avoid this network bottleneck. From my perspective as a researcher, the process looked seamless. This allowed us to conduct tests that we couldn’t have done otherwise. “

ESnet has a lot of virtual circuits snaking through our network – about 30 at last count. This one, though, is special: it’s the first one that connects up one of ESnet’s sites with a commercial service such as Google Cloud.

Jackson and other researchers are examining how commercial networks can be used for data driven computation. They are exploring with Google how fast we will be able to move data and what infrastructure is necessary to do this—one virtual circuit at a time.

ESnet's latest method of selective data transmission

See us at Joint Techs / ESCC

ESnet will be presenting at the Summer Joint Techs / ESCC meeting next week July 11-15 in Columbus, Ohio.  July 11, Joe Metzger and Brian Tierney will be giving a tutorial on “Improving End to End Bulk Data Transfer Rates” at 3 pm that focuses on the problems of moving TeraByte-scale data sets, and Jon Dugan will talk about Iperf in the Network Tools Tutorial.  July 12, at 2:40 pm, Brian Tierney will also be giving a Status Update on the DOE ANI Network Testbed.  July 13, at 10 am, ESnet’s Inder Monga will be replacing Chris Tracy on the panel “Dynamic Provisioning in Multi-Layer, Multi-Vendor Networks“, and Jon Dugan will give another presentation on ESxSNMP.  And finally, at 8:20 am on the 14th, Steve Cotter will give an ESnet Update.

Immediately following Joint Techs, the ESnet Site Coordinating Committee Meeting begins at 1 pm. The agenda is posted here: The ESnet team’s talks will outline the nuts and bolts behind 4 key areas integral to ESnet’s overall strategy:

1. Being an essential scientific resource for DOE. ESnet is making great strides in providing optimal connectivity between DOE labs as well as further developing dedicated network resources, such as our securing of dark fiber at Brookhaven. We are laying the groundwork to manage rapidly accelerating increases in DOE scientific networking traffic.  The first afternoon, Steve Cotter will give a more detailed update on ESnet’s activities at 2:10 pm and Greg Bell will lead the discussion about the ESnet implications of site reliance on cloud or externally-hosted services at 3:55 pm.

2. Knowing our users better than anyone. Steve Cotter will talk about new ways we will be reaching out to and listening to our users needs during his talk.

3. Setting a global standard for user experience.  We may not have invented the seamless user experience, but end to end data transmission is all our users care about. To that end we will be talking about our work on Graphite, URL and Weathermap.  Also, Thursday starting at 9:40 am Joe Metzger will report on the PerfSONAR Joint Interagency Demonstration Project followed by Evangelos Chaniotakis’s presentation on ESnet’s virtual circuit services status.

4. Efficiency. Helping our users optimize their networking resources in collaborations, accessing instrumentation and exascale computing needs in the most energy efficient ways possible.  Be sure not to miss Wednesday evening’s Focus Session on improving WAN network performance with Eli Dart and Joe Metzger beginning at 6:30 pm.

See you in Columbus!

Visitors from KISTI

Woojin Seok and Jin-Woo Sung of KISTI, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, Sang-Ho Son, Gagyo Tech. Co, Ltd., and YunMi Kim, reporter, Donga Science stopped by ESnet last week as part of a greater lab tour of the supercomputing facilities of LBNL.

ESnet has been collaborating with KISTI, Kreonet2, and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) to enable high-performance data transfers between BNL and KISTI in support of the Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC (STAR) experiment at BNL.

KISTI visitors get backstage at ESnet