Dear Friends, Well-wishers, Colleagues, and all of ESnet,
In October of this year we will launch ESnet6, a next-generation network featuring an entirely new, software-driven network design that enhances the ability to rapidly invent, test, and deploy new innovations to meet the data needs of the Office of Science/DOE.
We put forth the vision for ESnet6 in 2016. Since then, this $151M project (total project cost – DOE 413.3 parlance including contingency) has overcome pandemic-induced issues like site lockdowns, differing vaccination and inter-state travel policies, and variable supply chain delays, and is now in its final stages of implementation. As I prepare this historic unveiling, I can’t help but look back at what the team accomplished last year.
This is the first post in a series of blog posts about the people, partnerships, and innovations that have paved the road to ESnet6.
2021 was a year for growth within ESnet. We have 100+ people in the organization now—a 30% increase from last year—and it has been great to have new employees on-boarded, integrated, and productive in this challenging environment.
Looking towards the future, we think of ESnet growing around four dimensions. The three spatial axes are:
- Foundations: Next Generation Network and Services
- Innovation: Testbeds and Advanced Research and Development
- and Co-design: Partnerships with Science for new data and network solutions.
The fourth axis, Culture, is pervasive across all three dimensions.
The main reason for choosing this very technical representation is to illustrate that these are not independent thrusts—success in each of these dimensions depends on the capabilities of the other.
In this post, I’d like to focus on that first axis: Foundations. In the next few posts, I will focus on the Innovation and Co-Design dimensions and share more thoughts about our focus for 2022 and beyond.
Major capacity improvements
In 2021, we installed a brand new routing infrastructure on our network backbone, while decommissioning a portion of the previous generation packet processors in parallel. We seamlessly transitioned all ESnet customers and peers onto the forty new backbone routers before the holidays, and the remaining router upgrades at our customer sites are in progress and scheduled through 2022.
The greenfield optical infrastructure (installed at 300 locations in 2020— another noteworthy accomplishment) is getting a wonderful upgrade: 400G wavelengths are being standardized across our national backbone as we complete the second phase of optical upgrades.
In addition to our team’s intricate efforts to decommission the existing network, we added another 100G on the ring in Europe (thanks to our collaboration with GEANT). This ensured that the first Large Hadron Collider Data Challenge had enough bandwidth to accommodate both ESnet scientific data and LHC data challenge (test) streams. We also established a new point of presence in Dallas to support new peerings and the FABRIC project.
Creating a smarter network
The vision laid out in 2016 focused not only on capacity, but also on improving the essential framework of how we operate with the network.
We made a significant investment in building out a high-availability site within 10ms of our main data center, in addition to our disaster-recovery site on the east coast. So any planned or unplanned power outages will be handled without a scramble. While the supply chain issues prevented the site from being ready for operations, we are making steady progress and look forward to completing it this year.
The software orchestration team made tremendous progress in laying down the vision and framework for automation. They were supported by strong internal collaboration with the engineering team. Many repetitious deployments were automated, and I know it took diligent effort to make these tools available in the right time frame, aligned with evolving constraints of the deployments. A few examples of where automation was used include:
- Deployment of optical wavelengths on our backbone
- Deployment of routers and base configurations, and service provisioning
- Customer migration configurations from old network to the new equipment automatically generated from ESnet Database (ESDB)
- Virtualized test environment was developed to test out new tools and services before actual in-field deployment.
This year, we prepare to bring the official DOE 413.3 ESnet6 project to a close, but as you know the network never sleeps, data never stops growing, and we have to constantly evolve the network. I can proudly say that we have the core foundations of the enduring ESnet user facility ready to handle the next big challenges of Data, AI, and Integrated multi-facility research that the scientists and National Labs are actively pursuing.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year from ESnet.
This post is part of a series of posts reflecting on the road to ESnet6. Check back soon to see upcoming posts from Inder focusing on innovation, co-design, and his vision for ESnet6 and beyond.