The ESnet Portal: Visualizing the Network

As a facility that provides reliable, high bandwidth interconnectivity to scientists at national laboratories, universities, and research institutions, it is important for ESnet to share timely and accessible information about the network and its current status. The portal has been an innovative place for sharing this information since its inception. 

Following a six-month upgrade project, ESnet’s public-facing portal now provides improved visualization capabilities. It allows users to easily view the core network and its connections to national lab sites. With this updated version, users can now see the network in a more detailed view that also provides the ability to zoom in and pan. By utilizing an in-house developed network visualization library, this enhanced version synthesizes a longer time range of data to provide faster, more accurate, and more detailed network topology updates.

You can experience the new version and look at all its new capabilities at

Building on a Treasure Trove of Measurement Data

In 2021, ESnet rolled out its Stardust system, which collects precise network measurement data and allows users to retrieve information about specific equipment over a given time range. This updated release builds on Stardust’s capabilities, giving users a window into measurement data over the entire network topology.

A New View of the Network

Historically, ESnet’s portal has only offered a logical view of the network, visualizing the connections between sites but only approximating the network footprint. The updated version offers two visualization options: an updated and expanded logical “subway-style” view and a geographically referenced view. While building both views of the network, care was taken to strike a balance between providing a visualization that is as rich and accurate as possible while minimizing visual clutter. The approach uses interactive layers to help target the most important network information.

ESnet pictured in “logical” view

ESnet pictured in “geographic” view

Understanding Network Utilization

One of the most important things to understand when building and maintaining a network is measurements of bandwidth utilization, particularly at peak and near-peak conditions. To give users a clearer understanding of these key peak bandwidth utilization measurements, the map sends Stardust queries for traffic aggregations that display the “95th percentile,” or near-peak traffic, and a “maximum,” or peak measurement for a given period of time. These measurements give a sense of the “high water marks” for the network, letting ESnet know when a “flood” might occur and helping visualize the available headroom and plan for times of highest utilization.

Map (with options) picturing the “high water marks” for the last week

Tools for the Future

In conjunction with ESnet’s Stardust system, this update to the portal allows for much more responsiveness to changes in the network topology in the future. When a new router or site is added, ESnet can bring a visualization of it online in minutes rather than days. 

With this added capability and flexibility, ESnet may enhance site-centric capabilities, providing tailored views or new network layers (e.g., layers of university sites or peering points with commercial and R&E networks) to better inform users.
The portal’s new visualization of ESnet is a significant upgrade that provides researchers, network engineers, and other stakeholders with a more comprehensive, detailed, and accurate view of our network. With new statistical methods, more extensive time-based analysis, and a greater range of visualization capabilities, our portal update provides valuable insights into network behavior and performance. If you’re an ESnet user, check out the new tool and see how it can help you understand the network in greater detail.