Three Questions with Shawn Brown

Three questions with a new staff member!  

Shawn comes to us from Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he most recently held the role of a Senior Research Network Engineer. One of his major research projects was to develop and implement a Precision Timing Protocol (PTP) timing network, to keep data from the nation’s power grid substations synchronized and improve security by removing the dependency on GPS timing signals. Another fun project, for the United States Forestry Service involved developing low-cost (sub $100) durable, yet “disposable” fixed-wing drones, able to detect airborne asbestos fibers released during wildfires. 

When did you first become interested in networking and what brought you to ESnet?

My first introduction to networking occurred while enlisted in the US Army. I will forever remember learning subnetting while attending a voluntary class on a rather hot summer Saturday morning held inside of a windowless trailer, without air conditioning, located in the Southern AZ desert. From that point on, I was hooked.

The desire to work with some of the brightest minds on one of the fastest networks around brought me to ESnet. As a network engineer working at another DOE Lab, I had a few chances to work with ESnet engineers as well as being a customer of ESnet. Over the years, I was exposed to the team, their wonderful attitudes, and their first-class customer service. Transitioning to ESnet feels like a natural fit. 

What is the most exciting thing going on right now? 

Software Defined Networking and 400 Gbps transport speeds are perhaps two of the most exciting things in networking right now, and ESnet is in the middle of both of those. PTP synchronization providing nanosecond timestamping and accuracy is also something that I find exciting. Equally exciting was working on Quantum Key Distribution over WAN networks.

What book would you recommend?

For me, it is a toss-up between “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” by Candice Millard or the “One Second After” trilogy by William R. Forstchen.

Three questions with Minori Telang

Three questions with a new staff member!  

Please meet Minori Telang. Minori Telang comes to us from a variety of network engineering activities. She has worked for a telecom, in the health sector, and at a SAAS based company.

Outside work, she enjoys travel, hiking, and exploring new coffee shops with her husband. She is very keen on photography and loves to capture nature.

What brought you to ESnet?

During my interview process, I was told that ESnet’s main focus is to build networks for Scientific research and development. Hearing that I felt excited because I could be part of such a big community and can help support various researches across the world. I also think that this will help me grow professionally. 

What is the most exciting thing going on right now?

SDN and Cloud Networking is the most exciting technology right now.

What book would you recommend?

Instead of a book, I can recommend a spectacular hike, the Pipiwai trail in Hawaii  🙂 

100G DTN Experiment: Testing Technologies for Next-Generation File Transfer

ESnet has recently completed an experiment testing high-performance, file-based data transfers using Data Transfer Nodes (DTNs) on the 100G ESnet Testbed. Within ESnet, new ways to provide optimized, on-demand data movement tools to our network users are being prototyped. One such potential new data movement tool is offered by Zettar, Inc. Zettar’s “zx” product integrates with several storage technologies with an API for automation. This ESnet data movement experiment allowed us to test the use of tools like zx on our network. 

Two 100Gbps capable DTNs were deployed on the ESnet Testbed for this work, each with 8 x NVMe SSDs for fast disk-to-disk transfers, and connected using an approximately 90ms round trip time network path.  As many readers are aware, this combination of fast storage and fast networking requires careful tuning from both a file I/O and network protocol standpoint to achieve expected end-to-end transfer rates, and this evaluation was no exception. With the help of a storage throughput baseline achieved using the freely available elbencho tool, a single tuning profile for zx was found that struck an impressive performance balance when moving a sweep of hyperscale data sets (>1TB total size or >1M total files or both, see figure below) between the testbed DTNs.

A combined line chart with the measured storage throughput for each file size (blue line), together with both the Zettar zxtransfer data rates attained with a single run carried out by Zettar (orange line), and the average of five runs carried out by ESnet (green line)

To keep things interesting, the DTN software under evaluation was configured and launched within Docker containers to understand any performance and management impacts, and to establish a potential use case for more broadly deploying DTNs as-a-Service using containerization approaches. Spoiler: the testing was a great success! When configured appropriately, our evaluation has shown that modern container namespaces using performance-oriented Linux networking impart little to no impact on achievable storage and network performance at the 100Gbps scale while enabling a great deal of potential for distributed deployment of DTNs.  More critically, the problem of service orchestration and automation becomes the next great challenge when considering any large-scale deployment of dynamic data movement endpoints.

Our takeaways:

  • When properly provisioned and configured, a containerized environment has a high potential to provide an optimized, on-demand data movement service.
  • Data movers such as zx demonstrate that when modern TCP is used efficiently to move data at scale and speed, network latency becomes less of a factor – the same level of data rates are attainable over LAN, Metro, and WAN as long as packet loss rates can be effectively kept low
  • Finally, creating a holistic data movement solution demands integrated consideration of storage, computing, networking, and highly concurrent and intrinsically scale-out data mover software that incorporates a proper understanding of the variety in data movement scenarios.

For more information, a project report detailing the testing environment, performance comparisons, and best practices may be found here

Three Questions with Asma Aldaghar

Three questions with a new staff member on our Networking Engineering Team!

Asma earned her Bachelors in Computer Science from Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai, where she majored in Network Sciences and Engineering. In Dubai, she was a member of IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), one of the first organizations to recognize women’s presence in Engineering in the UAE, and participated in many WIE summits. Asma left Dubai, immigrating to California where she has worked as a Network Engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area for multinational corporations such as Google and Amazon, in Los Angeles for AT&T, and in the Central Valley as a Technical Infrastructure Lead for the Turlock Irrigation District. Beyond network engineering, Asma is also keenly interested in scripting, virtualization, automation, building databases, and working with open-source operating systems.

In her personal time, Asma enjoys reading, traveling, hiking and baking vegan goods.

Question 1: What brought you to ESnet?

I was introduced to ESnet and LBNL through my professor who also happens to work at LLNL. After hours of research on the ESnet public website, I was impressed by the lab’s accomplishments and future projects, specifically the ones that are focused on providing network services for national labs and some international research facilities. At this stage of my career, I wanted to be part of an organization which has an impactful mission that is beyond the bottom line. ESnet seems to satisfy both my professional and personal interests, and I am thrilled about this opportunity!

Question 2: What is the most exciting thing going on right now?

Automation! The vast majority of networking tasks are still executed manually, which can be time and effort taxing for network engineers. Incorporating automation into network services will assist in managing repetitive tasks and consequently improve network availability.

Question 3: What book do you recommend?

Big Farms make Big Flu by Rob Wallace. Looking at our current situation with this deadly pandemic, it’s very important to educate ourselves of how we got here. Apart from the fact that I learned a lot from Rob Wallace’s extraordinary analysis of our current agricultural practices, I also incorporated significant changes in my daily life (plant-based diet, awareness of ethical trades and supporting sustainable energy).