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After some investigation, it turned out that all these transfers were going through a bottleneck in the network: an outdated 1Gbps connection to a commercial internet exchange located in San Jose, CA, that hasn’t yet been upgraded to the usual 10Gbps.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