ESnet 2010 Round-up: Part 2

Our take on ANI, OSCARS, perfSONAR, and the state of things to come.

ANI Testbed

In 2010 ESnet led the technology curve in the testbed by putting together a great multi-layer design, deploying specially tuned 10G IO Testers, became early investors in the Openflow protocol by deploying the NEC switches, and built a research breadboard of end-hosts leveraging open-source virtualization and cloud technologies.

The first phase of the ANI testbed is concluding. After 6+ months of operational life, with exciting research projects like ARCHSTONE, Flowbench, HNTES, climate studies, and more leveraging the facilities, we are preparing to move the testbed to its second phase on the dark fiber ring in Long Island. Our call for proposals that closed October 1st garnered excellent ideas from researchers and was reviewed by the academic and industry stalwarts in the panel. We are tying up loose ends as we light the next phase of testbed research.


This year the OSCARS team has been extremely productive. We added enhancements to create the next version (0.5.3) of currently production OSCARS software, progressed on architecting and developing a highly modular and flexible platform for the next-generation OSCARS (0.6), a PCE-SDK targeted towards network researchers focused on creating complex algorithms for path computation, and developing FENIUS to support the GLIF Automated GOLE demonstrator.

Not only did the ESnet team multitask on various ANI, operational network and OSCARS deliverables, it also spent significant time supporting our R&E partners like Internet2, SURFnet, NORDUnet, RNP and others interested in investigating the capabilities of this open-source software. We also appreciate Internet2’s participation by dedicating testing resources for OSCARS 0.6 starting next year to ensure a thoroughly vetted and stable platform during the April timeframe. This is just one example of the accomplishments possible for the R&E community by commiting to partnership and collaboration.

perfSONAR collaboration

perfSONAR kept up its rapid pace of feature additions and new releases in joint collaboration with Internet2 and others. In addition to rapid progress in software capabilities, ESnet is aggressively rolling out perfSONAR nodes in its 10G and 1G POPs, creating an infrastructure where the network can be tuned to hum. With multiple thorny network problems now solved, perfSONAR has proven to be great tool delivering value. This year we focused on making perfSONAR easily deployable and adding the operational features to transform it into a production service. An excellent workshop in August succinctly captured the challenges and opportunities to leverage perfSONAR for operational troubleshooting and also by researchers in understanding further how to improve networks. Joint research projects continue to stimulate further development with a focus on solving end-to-end performance issues.

The next networking challenge?


Life in technology tends to be interesting, even though people keep warning about the commoditization of networking gear. The focus area for innovation just shifts, but never goes away.  Some areas of interest as we evaluate our longer term objectives next year:

  • Enabling the end-to-end world: What new enhancements or innovations are needed to deploy performance measurement, and control techniques to enable a seamless end-to-end application performance?
  • Life in a Terabit digital world: What network innovations are needed to fully exploit the requirement for Terabit connectivity between supercomputer centers in the 2015-2018 timeframe?
  • Life in a carbon economy: What are the low-hanging fruit for networks to become more energy-efficient and/or enable energy-efficiency in the IT ecosystem they play? Cloud-y or Clear?

We welcome your comments and contributions,

Happy New Year

Inder Monga and the folks at ESnet

ESnet 2010 Round-up: Part 1

Part 1: Considering the state of 100G and the state we’re in

The past year slipped by at a dizzying pace for us at ESnet, as we made new forays into cutting-edge technologies. In this two-part blogpost, we will recap accomplishments of the year, but also consider the challenges facing us in the one to come as we progress towards delivering the Advanced Networking Initiative.

Stimulating 100G

One of our prime directives with ANI funding was to stimulate the 100G market towards increasing spectral efficiency. In the last year, we have had wonderful engagement with the vendors that are moving products in this direction. Coherent receivers and DP-QPSK modulation are now standard fare for the 40G/100G solutions. At the latest conference, IEEE ANTS, in Mumbai last week, the 100G question was considered solved. Researchers are now exploring innovative solutions to deliver a next generation of 100G with higher power efficiency, or jump to the next level in delivering 400G. One researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, is looking at revolutionizing the power consumption curve of the digital processing paradigm of coherent solutions by investigating analog processing techniques (super secret, so we will just have to wait and see).

IEEE-ANTS Conference

A representative from OFS, the optical fiber company, described research on new fibers which cater to the coherent world that will enable better performance. He quoted hero experiments, papers, and research presented at this years’ OFC, touting the advantages of new fiber captured through the joint work of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs and OFS (ex-Lucent) research collaborators. There is a lot of fiber still being laid out in the developing countries and they are well positioned to take advantage of this new research to bring cheaper broadband connectivity in so far underserved communities.

Some selected points raised at the panel regarding 400G and beyond:

  • Raman amplification is coming back in vogue
  • 50GHz ITU-Grid needs to evolve to flexi-grid technology. With flexi-grid, some of the basic modem concepts of negotiation (remember the auto-sensing modems of late 90’s) is back – where based on distance, and loss, the appropriate grid spacing can be negotiated for each wavelength.
  • If the industry sticks with electrical compensation, optical equipment will see increased electricity consumption by the power-hungry Analog-Digital Conversion (ADC) and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) ASICS. With advances in CMOS, the status quo might not suffice in a few years, especially since the whole industry is out there sticking the router vendors with a big “power-hungry” sticker. The equations in power-consumption tradeoffs still need to be studied and appropriate comparisons made. I hope the vendors also develop a perspective in that direction.
  • Comcast, the only other vendor on the panel, mentioned current capacities of 30x40G (coherent) on some links of their backbone and their eagerness to deploy 100G solutions. They are WAY ahead in deploying 100G, though the industry seems to not broadcast such news widely.
  • Comcast felt that coherent optics in the Metro Area is overkill and entreated the vendors not to build one-size-fits-all solutions even if simpler (and, they hope making 100G more affordable, as well).
  • Speeding into next year

    There was little discussion on the 100GE standards, although there was a clear message that LR-10 is here to stay, mainly supported by Data Center customers, though almost all traditional carriers intend deploy LR-4, in the case it starts costing less than a Ferrari.

At Supercomputing 2010, the SCinet community orchestrated and deployed 100G-capable equipment from Brocade, Cisco, Ciena and Juniper, to name a few vendors, and included 100G host demonstrations of data transfers by NASA. It was encouraging to see the Academic and R&E community lead deployment and testing of 100G [See a sample poster below].

100G Testing by German Academia

The SCinet community lives on the “bleeding edge” and supported a demonstration by Internet2, ESnet, and other partners carrying live 100Gbps application data over a 100G wave from Chicago to New Orleans show floor.

We are looking forward to Seattle (SC11) and can already predict multiple 100G’s of bandwidth coming towards the show floor – if you have any cool demonstrations that you would like to collaborate with us, please drop us a note.

— Inder Monga

ESnet gives CISCO Nerd Lunch talk, learns televangelism is harder than it seems

As science transitions from lab-oriented to a distributed computational and data-intensive activity, the research and education (R&E) networking community is tracking the growing data needs of scientists. Huge instruments like the Large Hadron Collider are being planned and built. These projects require global-scale collaborations and contributions from thousands of scientists, and as the data deluge from the instruments grows, even more scientists are interested in analyzing it for the next breakthrough discovery. Suffice it to say that even though worldwide video consumption on the Internet is driving a similar increase in commercial bandwidth, the scale, characteristics, and requirements of scientific data traffic is quite different.

And this is why ESnet got invited to Cisco Systems’ headquarters last week to talk about how we how we handle data as part of their regular Nerd Lunch talk series. What I found interesting although not surprising, was that with Cisco being a big evangelist of telepresence, more employees attended the talk from their desks than in person.  This was a first for me and I came away with a new appreciation for the challenges of collaborating across distances.

From a speaker’s perspective, the lesson learnt by me was to brush up my acting skills. My usual preparations are to rehearse the difficult transitions and  focus on remembering the few important points to make on every slide. When presenting, that slide presentation portion of my brain goes on auto-pilot, while my focus turns towards evaluating the impact on the audience. When speaking at a podium one can observe when someone in the audience opens a notebook to jot down a thought, when their attention drifts to email on the laptop in front of them, or when a puzzled look appears on the face of someone as they try to figure out the impact of the point I’m trying to make. But these visual cues go missing with a largely webcast audience, making it harder to know when to stop driving home a point or when to explain the point further to the audience.  In the future, I’ll have to be better at keeping the talk interesting without the usual clues from my audience.

Maybe the next innovation in virtual-reality telepresence is just waiting to happen?

Notwithstanding the challenges of presenting to a remote audience, enabling remote collaboration is extremely important to ESnet. Audio, video and web collaboration is a key service offered by us to the DOE labs. ESnet employees use video extensively in our day-to-day operations. The “ESnet watercooler”, a 24×7 open video bridge, is used internally by our distributed workforce to discuss technical issues, as well as, to have ad-hoc meetings on topics of interest. As science goes increasingly global, scientists are also using this important ESnet service for their collaborations.

With my brief stint in front of a stage now over, it is back to ESnet and then on to the 100G invited panel/talk at IEEE ANTS conference in Mumbai. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!

Inder Monga

Why this spiking network traffic?

ESnet November 2010 Traffic

Last month was the first in which the ESnet network crossed a major threshold – over 10 petabytes of traffic! Traffic volume was 40% higher than the prior month and 10 times higher than just a little over 4 years ago. But what’s behind this dramatic increase in network utilization?  Could it be the extreme loads ESnet circuits carried for SC10, we wondered?

Breaking down the ESnet traffic highlighted a few things.  Turns out it wasn’t all that demonstration traffic sent across thousands of miles to the Supercomputing Conference in New Orleans (151.99 TB delivered), since that accounted for only slightly more than 1% of November’s ESnet-borne traffic.  We observed for the first time significant volumes of genomics data traversing the network as the Joint Genome Institute sent over 1 petabyte of data to NERSC. JGI alone accounted for about 10% of last month’s traffic volume. And as we’ve seen since it went live in March, the Large Hadron Collider continues to churn out massive datasets as it increases its luminosity, which ESnet delivers to researchers across the US.

Summary of Total ESnet Traffic, Nov. 2010

Total Bytes Delivered: 10.748 PB
Total Bytes OSCARS Delivered: 5.870 PB
Pecentage of OSCARS Delivered: 54.72%

What is is really going on is quite prosaic, but to us, exciting. We can follow the progress of distributed scientific projects such as the LHC  by tracking the proliferation of our network traffic, as the month-to-month traffic volume on ESnet correlates to the day-to-day conduct of science. Currently, Fermi and Brookhaven LHC data continue to dominate the volume of network traffic, but as we see, production and sharing of large data sets by the genomics community is picking up steam. What the stats are predicting: as science continues to become more data-intensive, the role of the network will become ever more important.