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.

OSCARS

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?

2011

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

Cheers for Magellan

We were glad to see DOE’s Magellan project getting some well-deserved recognition by the HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Award at SC10 in New Orleans. Magellan investigates how cloud computing can help DOE researchers to manage the massive (and increasing) amount of data they generate in scientific collaborations. Magellan is a joint research project at NERSC at Berkeley Lab in California and Argonne Leadership Computing Facility in Illinois.

This award represents teamwork on several fronts. For example, earlier this year, ESnet’s engineering chops were tested when the Joint Genome Institute, one of Magellan’s first users, urgently needed increased computing resources at short notice.

Within a nailbiting span of several hours, technical staff at both centers collaborated with ESnet engineers to establish a dedicated 9 Gbps virtual circuit between JGI and NERSC’s Magellan system over ESnet’s Science Data Network (SDN). Using the ESnet-developed On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System (OSCARS), the virtual circuit was set up within an hour after the last details were finalized.

NERSC raided its closet spares for enough networking components to construct a JGI@NERSC local area network and migrated a block of Magellan cores over to JGI control.  This allowed NERSC and JGI staff to spend the next 24 hours configuring hundreds of processor cores on the Magellan system to mimic the computing environment of JGI’s local compute clusters.

With computing resources becoming more distributed, complex networking challenges will occur more frequently. We are constantly solving high-stakes networking problems in our job connecting DOE scientists with their data. But thanks to OSCARS, we now have the ability to expand virtual networks on demand. And OSCARS is just getting better as more people in the community refine its capabilities.

The folks at JGI claim they didn’t feel a thing. They were able to continue workflow and no data was lost in the transition.

Which makes us very encouraged about the prospects for Magellan, and cloud computing in general. Everybody is hoping that putting data out there in the cloud will expand capacity.  At ESnet, we just want to make the ride as seamless and secure as possible.

Kudos to Magellan. We’re glad to back you up, whatever the weather.

100G: it may be voodoo, but it certainly works

SC10, Thursday morning.

During the SC10 conference, NASA, NOAA, ESnet, the Dutch Research Consortium, US LHCNet and CANARIE announced that they would transmit 100Gbps of scientific data between Chicago and New Orleans.  Through the use of 14 10GigE interconnects, researchers attempted to  completely utilize the full 100 Gbps worth of bandwidth by producing up to twelve 8.5-to-10Gbps individual data flows.

Brian Tierney reports: “We are very excited that a team from NASA Goddard completely filled the 100G connection from the show floor to Chicago.  It is certainly the first time for the supercomputing conference that a single wavelength over the WAN achieved 100Gbps. The other thing that is so exciting about it that they used a single sending host to do it.”

“Was this just voodoo?” asked NERSC’s Brent Draney.

Tierney assures us that indeed it must have been… but whatever they did, it certainly works.

Catch ESnet roundtable discussions today at SC10, 1 and 2 p.m.

Wednesday Nov. 17 at SC10:

At 1 p.m. at Berkeley Lab booth 2448, catch ESnet’s Inder Monga’s round-table discussion on OSCARS virtual circuits. OSCARS, the acronym for On- demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System, allows users to reserve guaranteed bandwidth. Many of the demos at SC10 are being carried by OSCARS virtual circuits which were developed by ESnet with DOE support. Good things to come: ESnet anticipates the rollout of OSCARS 0.6 in early 2011. Version 0.6 will offer greatly expanded capabilities and versatility, such as a modular architecture enabling easy plug and play of the various functional modules and a flexible path computation engine (PCE) workflow architecture.

Then, stick around, because next at 2 p.m.  Brian Tierney from ESnet will lead a roundtable on the research being produced from the ARRA-funded Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI) testbed.

In 2009, the DOE Office of Science awarded ESnet $62 million in recovery funds to establish ANI, a next generation 100Gbps network connecting DOE’s largest unclassified supercomputers, as well as a reconfigurable network testbed for researchers to test new networking concepts and protocols.

Brian will discuss progress on the 100Gbps network, update you on the several research projects already underway on the testbed, discuss testbed capabilities and how to get access to the testbed. He will also answer your questions on how to submit proposals for the next round of testbed network research.

In the meantime, some celeb-spotting at the LBNL booth at SC10.

Inder Monga
Brian Tierney

We’ve got a new standard: IEEE P802.3az Energy-Efficient Ethernet ratified

GUEST BLOG: We’ve got EEE. Now what?

ESnet fully supports the drive for energy efficiency to reduce the amount of emissions caused by information and communication technologies (ICT). IEEE just announced that Energy-Efficient Ethernet (EEE) or IEEE P803.3az is the new standard enabling copper interfaces to reduce energy use when the network link is idle . Energy saving mechanisms of EEE can be applied in systems beyond the Ethernet physical interface, e.g. the PCI Express bus.  New hardware is required to benefit from EEE, however, so its full impact won’t be realized for a few years. ESnet is in the middle of the Advanced Network Initiative to deploy a cross-country 100G network and we would like to explore end-to-end power saving possibilities including 40G and 100G Ethernet interfaces…Here’s why:

In 2006 articles began to appear discussing the ever-increasing consumption of energy by ICT as well as how data center giants such as Google and Microsoft were locating new data centers based on the availability and cost of energy. Meanwhile, the IEEE was attempting to create a specification to reduce network energy usage, and four years later, ratified the P802.3az or Energy-Efficient Ethernet (EEE).

Earlier this year, the ITU World Summit for an Information Society reported that electricity demand by the ICT sector in industrialized countries is between 5 percent and 10 percent of total demand. But about half the electricity used is wasted by powered on equipment that is idle. So while completion of this project seems timely, the question remains how “triple-e” will impact energy use for Ethernet consumers. EEE defines a protocol to reduce energy usage during periods of low utilization for copper and backplane interfaces up to 10Gb/s.  It also reuses a couple of other IEEE protocols to allow uninterrupted communication between link partners.  While this combination of protocols can save energy, it is uncertain how much time the typical Ethernet link operates at low utilization, especially when the P802.3ba, or 40G and 100G Ethernet standard was just ratified in June, suggesting relief for pent up demand for bandwidth.

So why isn’t there an energy-efficient version of the higher-speed version of Ethernet?

The answer depends on the type of Ethernet interface and its purpose in the network, as an interface in a home desktop computer will likely be idle much longer than an uplink interface in a data center switch. A key feature of this new standard is called Low Power Idle. As the name suggests, during idle time the non-critical components of the interface go to sleep.  The link partner is activated by a wake up signal allowing the receiver time to prepare for an incoming frame.

Consider the utilization plot shown below:

File Server Bandwidth Utilization Profile

Not all links are the same

This window on a file server in an enterprise network shows plenty of idle periods. While there are several peaks over 500 Mb/s, the server is mostly idle, with average utilization under one percent. On the other hand, there are many examples of highly utilized links as well (just look at some of ESnet’s utilization plots). In those cases, less energy is saved, but the energy is being used to do something useful, like transfer information.

But when considering the number of triple-speed copper Ethernet interfaces deployed, energy savings start to add up. The P802.3az Task Force members estimated power savings in US alone can reach 5 Terawatt-hours per year, or enough energy to power 6 million 100W light bulbs. This translates into a reduction of the ICT carbon footprint by roughly 5 million tons per year.

Since EEE is built into the physical interface, new hardware will be required to take advantage of this feature and it will take a few years to reach 100% market saturation.

Getting back to the question about energy efficiency for 40G and 100G Ethernet, there are a few reasons why LPI was not specified for P802.3ba. This project overlapped with P802.3az so it is difficult to specify an energy-efficient method for the new speeds, given the record size of the project and the lack of P802.3az resources for work on optical interfaces.  This leads to another question:  Should there be an energy-efficient version of 40G and 100G Ethernet?  Or should there be an energy-efficient version of optical and P802.3ba interfaces?

To decide the scope of the project P802.3az we examined the magnitude of power consumed and number of interfaces in the market.  The power consumed for a 1000BASE-T interface is less than that used by a10GBASE-T interface, but there are orders of magnitudes more of the former. On the other hand, early in the project not many 10GBASE-T interfaces existed in the market, but the interfaces consumed power on the order of 10W-15W per interface.  These numbers are reduced by each new improvement in process technology, but they are still significant.

Considering first generation 100G transceivers can consume more than 20W each and the millions of optical Ethernet interfaces in the market, further standards development is worth pursuing.

Mike Bennett is a senior network engineer for LBLnet and chair of P802.3az. He can be reached at MJBennett@lbl.gov

ESnet Call for Proposals: Advanced Networking Initiative Testbed

ANI ConfigurationESnet is now soliciting research proposals for its ARRA-funded testbed. It currently provides network researchers with a rapidly reconfigurable high-performance network research environment where reproducible tests can be run. This will eventually evolve into a nationwide 100Gbps testbed, available for use to any researcher whose proposal is accepted.

Sample Research

Researchers can use the testbed to prototype, test, and validate cutting edge networking concepts, for example, projects including:

  • Path computation algorithms that incorporate information about hybrid layer 1, 2 and 3 paths, and support ‘cut-through’ routing.
  • New transport protocols for high speed networks
  • Protection and recovery algorithms
  • Automatic classification of large bulk data flows
  • New routing protocols
  • New network management techniques
  • Novel packet processing algorithms
  • High-throughput middleware and applications research

Please look at the description to get a more detailed idea of the current testbed capabilities.

Important Dates

The proposal review panel will discuss and review proposals twice yearly. The first round of proposals is due October 1, 2010, and decisions will be made by Dec 10, 2010. After that the committee will meet approximately every six months to accept additional proposals and review progress of current projects.

Proposals should be sent to: ani-testbed-proposal@es.net
More details on the testbed and the brief proposal process can be found right here.

Scaling up – when computing meets optical transport

While we have been busy working towards a 100G ANI prototype wide area network (WAN), researchers at Intel are making sure that we have plenty to do in the future. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article (http://on.wsj.com/dcf5ko) on Intel demonstrating 50Gbps communication between chips with silicon-based lasers, is just the tip of the iceberg of competitive research looming in the arena of photon-electron integration.

50G Silicon Photonics Link (image from Intel white paper)

This demonstration from Intel (Kudos to them!) is a great reminder of how such innovations can revolutionize the computing model by making it easier to move large amounts of data between the chips on a motherboard or between thousands of multi-core processors, leading the way towards exascale computing.  Just imagine the multi-terabit fire hose of capacity ESnet would have to turn on to keep those chips satisfied! This seamless transition from electronics to photonics without dependence on expensive sets of photonic components has the potential to transform the entire computing industry and give an additional boost to the “Cloud” industry. Thomas J. Watson has been credited with saying “The world needs only five computers”. We look to be collecting the innovations to just prove him right one day.

While we do get excited about the fantastic future of silicon integration, I would like to point out the PIC (Photonic Integrated Chip) has been a great innovation by a company, Infinera, just down the Silicon Valley – they are actually mass-producing integrated lasers on a chip for a different application – long distance communication, by using a substrate material different than silicon. This technology is for real. You can get to play with the Infinera’s in our ANI testbed – you just need to come up with a cool research problem and write a proposal by October 1st, 2010.

Fire away!

—-

August 4th, 2010

Computing at the Speed of Light – Read MIT Technology Review’s take on the same topic.

We’ve got Yoo

Professor Ben Yoo

ESnet is pleased to announce that UC Davis Professor S.J. Ben Yoo has been granted a joint faculty appointment with Berkeley Lab, formalizing a long-term relationship.  Yoo will be collaborating on research projects with ESnet to develop Terabit optical networks of the future to meet the upcoming data challenges triggered by Exascale thinking within the DOE.  It is an interesting research challenge, including architecture studies, software developments and networking experiments on ESnet’s ANI testbed. Yoo will also be collaborating with LBNL researchers at NERSC for applications of optical networking within high-end data centers.

“Ben is the type of highly credentialed network research scientist that we hope will take full advantage of the testbed infrastructure we are making available to the community.” said Steve Cotter, head of ESnet.

In a talk this week at Joint Techs http://bit.ly/cAtNt4, Yoo discussed the potential of next generation all-optical Label Switching (OLS) networking, a technology he invented. OLS can seamlessly integrate packet, flow, and circuit traffic. OLS has the potential to fit well within the  industry standard MPLS and GMPLS architectures, and recent experimental results show very good characteristics like extremely low latency (<100 ns) and scalability beyond 40 petabit/sec capacity. It has experimentally demonstrated a per-channel line rate of 100 Gb/s ~ 1.2 Tb/s. A centralized management station can leverage OLS to rapidly assess data flows based on real time collections of labels that contain statistical information about the data traffic.

Yoo has done extensive research with the ATD-Monet testbed in the Washington DC area, telecommunications standardization services at Bellcore, and testbed work at the Sprint Advanced Technology Laboratory. You can get a better sense of his work and research here.

We look forward to working with him on our ANI testbed as well. Yoo’s intention is to push the testbed to its limits. Should be a wild ride.

Purchase of dark fiber launches ESnet into new era

What sets us apart? ESnet has, and always will focus on anticipating the needs of the extended DOE science community.  This shapes our network strategy, from services and architecture to topology and reach. It also distinguishes ESnet from university research & education networks which are driven by the broader needs of the general university population.  Vis-à-vis commercial networks, ESnet has specialized in handling the relatively small number of very large flows of large-scale science data rather than the enormous number of relatively small data flows traversing commercial carrier networks today. Our desire to always stay a step ahead of the constantly evolving network needs of the scientific community has driven ESnet to take the bold step of purchasing and lighting our first segment of dark fiber.

Owning the road

By owning a tiny but powerful pair of optical fibers, ESnet will no longer have to rely on the vagaries of the commercial market – we will be able to deliver services when we choose and where they are needed.  For example, the DOE envisions using ESnet to link its supercomputing centers with a terabit of capacity by 2015. Our network will be key to enabling the scientific community to accomplish exascale computing by 2020.

Ramping up is no slam-dunk

But providing terabit capacity by using 10 100G waves through commercial services is no slam-dunk and could be very cost-prohibitive.  Without owning the fiber and transport infrastructure, the same is likely to be true when near-terabit waves become available around 2020. Not only does one lose spectral efficiency because a terabit wave won’t fit within ITU standard 50 Ghz spacing – it is necessary to plan for non-standard spacing, with current research pointing towards 200 Ghz to accommodate the signal.

But just solving this problem is not enough, as ESnet’s massive bandwidth requirements don’t end with the supercomputers.  ESnet must deliver steadily increasing amounts of data generated by the Large Hadron Collider as well as similar data sets shared within the climate, fusion, and genomics communities to scientists around the world.

Lighting the way forward

It is clear to us that the only way to scale the network to meet the rapidly propagating needs of large-scale science is by lighting our own dark fiber. Although this relatively small 200-mile loop linking New York City to Brookhaven National Lab barely registers with most in the networking community, it represents an exciting sea change in ESnet’s approach in serving our customers.

–Steve Cotter