ESnet’s Science DMZ Breaks Down Barriers, Speeds up Science across US

From individual universities around the country to a consortium of research institutions stretching the length of the west coast, networking teams are deploying an infrastructure architecture known as the Science DMZ to help researchers make productive use of ever-increasing data flows.

The Science DMZ traces its name to an element of network security architecture. In a security context, a DMZ or “demilitarized zone” is a portion of a site network which is specifically dedicated to external-facing services (such as web and email servers). Typically, located at the network perimeter, a DMZ has its own security policy because of its dedicated purpose – exchanging data with the outside world. A Science DMZ is specifically dedicated to external-facing high-performance science services. For example, the data servers for a large data repository would be put in a Science DMZ so that collaborating institutions could easily transfer hundreds of terabytes of data for analysis.

Eli Dart, a network engineer with the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), first coined the term “Science DMZ” in early 2010 to describe the network configuration linking two DOE sites – the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. ESnet provides high-bandwidth connections between 40 DOE sites in the U.S. and links to collaborators around the globe. Both NERSC and ESnet are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

Science DMZ developer Eli Dart

Since then, the concept has been endorsed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), replicated at more than 100 universities, is being considered by several federal research organizations and is the basis for the new Pacific Research Platform, a cutting-edge research infrastructure which will link together the Science DMZs of dozens of West Coast research institutions. On July 30, 2015, the NSF announced it would fund a $5 million, five-year award to UC San Diego and UC Berkeley to support the Pacific Research Platform as a science-driven high-capacity data-centric “freeway system” on a large regional scale.

“In the R&E (Research and Education) networking space we have a close working relationship and that helps with NSF’s mission to fund research at colleges and universities,” said Kevin Thompson,program manager in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Advanced Cyber Infrastructure. “It’s been a great partnership. The Science DMZ is one of the more important network engineering events for the community to build around in a long time. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this seminal engineering program. ESnet has shown national leadership in campus networking and it’s a big reason why the NSF program has been so successful.”

Science DMZ schematic

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Weekly online pub “The Science Node” takes on challenge of communicating importance of networking, HPC

Making advanced computing and networks understandable to a general audience can be a challenge, but a revamped weekly online publication called the Science Node is up to the task.

With over 11,000 subscribers in 190 countries, the Science Node was previously known as International Science Grid This Week (iSGTW). The publication has been engaging with the public and supporting the research computing community for over a decade. Now, with iSGTW’s reporting extending well beyond grid computing, the editors decided it was time for a new tech-neutral name — and an updated look and feel.

The Science Node’s new look and name comes at a time when the roles of high performance computing centers and networks are also changing and being viewed as integrated tools for discovery,” said Lauren Rotman, chair of the Science Node’s advisory board and science engagement group lead for ESnet, the US Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network. “But since these facilities are so well integrated, the contributions they make to research are sometimes not fully apparent, an issue that the Science Node is ideally positioned to address.”

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Five LBNL Computing Staff, including ESnet’s Eli Dart, NERSC’s Brent Draney Honored by Berkeley Lab Director for Pioneering Science DMZ

Five employees in the Computing Sciences organization staff members, including ESnet Network Engineer Eli Dart, are recipients of this year’s Berkeley Lab Director’s Awards for Exceptional Achievement, which were announced on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Dart, a member of ESnet’s Science Engagement Team and Brent Draney, head of NERSC’s Networking, Security and Servers Group, were recognized for their work in developing the Science DMZ, a network architecture that allows science data to securely bypass institutional firewalls. The Science DMZ has been endorsed by the National Science Foundation, which has funded Science DMZs t more than 100 universities across the country. Dart and Draney were honored in the area of operations for “achievement in operational effectiveness, process re-engineering or improvement, resource management and efficiency, or partnerships across organizational/departmental boundaries.”

Deb Agarwal, head of  the Computational Research Division’s (CRD) Data Science and Technology Department, was recognized for her effort to support diversity at the lab.

James Sethian, head of CRD’s Mathematics Group, was recognized for establishing CAMERA, the Center for Advanced Mathematics for Energy Research Applications.

Lynn Rippe was awarded a Berkeley Lab Citation for her longtime procurement work in support of NERSC.

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Computing Sciences recipients of the 2015 Berkeley Lab Director’s Awards for Exceptional Achievement are (from left) CRD’s Deb Agarwal, ESnet’s Eli Dart, NERSC’s Brent Draney, CRD’s James Sethian and NERSC Lead Procurement Administrator Lynn Rippe.

SDN Tutorial Co-led by ESnet’s Inder Monga featured on

In a recap of the recent IEEE Hot Interconnects 2015 conference, networking news site featured a tutorial on Software Defined WANs co-led by ESnet Chief Technologist Inder Monga and Srini Seetharaman of Infinera. Viodi (pronounced V-O-D) provides information about broadband networks to independent network operators and their vendors. The 2015 Hot Interconnects, the 23rd in the conference series, was held Aug. 26-28 in Santa Clara.

According to, the tutorial on “Software Defined WANs (which is a much broader topic than SDN for WANs)…was a terrific ‘tag team’ lecture/discussion by Inder & Srini who alternated describing each slide/diagram. We present selected highlights below.

“Inder summarized many fundamental problems in all facets of WANs:

  • Agility requirements are not met for WAN provisioning (sometimes takes days or weeks to provision a new circuit or IP-MPLS VPN)
  • Traditional wide-area networking is inflexible, opaque and expensive
  • WAN resources are not efficiently utilized (over-provisioning prevails)
  • Interoperability issues across vendors, layers and domains reduces chance of automation
  • Hard to support new value propositions, like: Route selection at enterprises, Dynamic peering at exchanges, Auto bandwidth and bandwidth calendaring, Mapping elephant (very large) data flows to different Flexi-Grid channels

“Srini commented that the Network Virtualization (NV)/ overlay model has more market traction than the pure SDN/Open Flow model.”

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ESnet Chief Technologist Inder Monga
ESnet Chief Technologist Inder Monga