ESnet’s Wireless Edge: Extending Our Network to Support Field Science

Throughout the world, earth and environmental scientists are deploying new kinds of sensors to measure and understand how the climate is changing and how we can best manage key infrastructure and resources in response. 

Operation and data analysis of these sensors can often be challenging, as they are deployed in areas with limited power, sometimes with no data connectivity beyond the periodic physical collection of memory cards. Sensors may be in areas where weather and other factors make access laborious and challenging, such as at the top of a mountain, down a borehole, or under dense forest canopy.

Solar-powered meteorological and hydrological sensors deployed at the Snodgrass Field Site, Crested Butte, July 2022 at approximately 9,000 ft. elevation. (Photo: Andrew Wiedlea)

As the number, types, and capabilities of these sensors increases, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) is working on ways to extend its high-speed network to support the needs of scientists working in remote, resource-challenged environments where our fiber backbone cannot be extended. Using advanced wireless technologies such as low-Earth orbit constellations, 5G, and private citizen band radio system cellular, mmWave, and Internet-of-Things tools like long-range (LoRa) mesh networks, we are developing ways to remove the limits of geographical constraints from field scientists, just as we have traditionally sought to do for laboratory scientists around the DOE complex.

In early July this year, ESnet took a step forward in these efforts by installing a private cellular network near Crested Butte, Colorado, supporting sensor fields being used by Earth and environmental scientists on Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab’s) Surface Atmosphere Integrated Laboratory program.  

The purpose of this effort is to assess requirements for operation of a private 4G/5G wireless network in a remote and changing environment, which can pull ESnet capabilities and services supporting scientific research out beyond our performant 13,000 km optical backbone. We are also using this research to identify specific operational, workflow, and data movement needs for the Earth and environmental science community as part of building ESnet’s logistics, operational, and human capital resources available to support the Earth and environmental science mission.

Our system, which is currently being configured, is built around a Nokia Digital Automation Cloud private cellular capability, with antennas being placed across a valley from sensor fields at the Snodgrass Field Site in Crested Butte. The intent is to use this cellular service to automate and improve the efficiency of data collection from sensors, using cellular routers and radios, depending on the specific capabilities of each sensor system. For those sensor systems that cannot be directly connected to a cellular network, we are establishing solar-powered sensor stations that will provide local area bridge (several hundred meter) connectivity to local sensors via wifi, LoRa, or direct ethernet cable. 

Once data is backhauled from a sensor field through our private cellular network, it will be transmitted back to ESnet via SpaceX’s Starlink low earth orbit satellite system, connecting to ESnet at a peering location in Seattle, Washington, and then through our optical backbone to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley Lab for processing and storage.

With fantastic assistance and collaboration from the Atmospheric Radiation Monitoring program, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, and Dan Feldman and Charulekha Varadarajan in the Watershed Function Science Focus Area at Berkeley Lab, our first field campaign was both great fun and extremely productive. 

We will return later in the Fall to complete network configuration and connection of sensors to the network. Once this is done, we can begin the next phase of this research: studying the operational performance and service requirements necessary to support field science through the demanding conditions provided by winter in the Colorado High Rockies. We will also begin to develop standard deployment equipment specifications and practices that we can use to support ESnet wireless edge deployments supporting science in other regions and for other purposes.  

This effort is being made possible by teamwork across ESnet and Berkeley Lab, including outstanding support at Berkeley Lab from Chris Tracy, Jackson Gor with ESnet network engineering, and Steve Nobles and many others with IT Telephone Services. The Colorado deployment success depended on the hard (often physical) work of Stijn Wielandt-EESA, Kate Robinson (ESnet Network Engineering), Jeff D’Ambrogia (IT-Science IT), and Jeff Chavez with Nokia.

A word from Inder Monga: The Road to ESnet6 (Part 1)

Inder Monga, Executive Director of ESnet.

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. 

A diagram showing the dimensions of growth within ESnet: Foundations, Innovation, Co-design, and Culture. Foundations, Innovation, and Co-design all point outward in separate directions, while Culture lies alongside all three Axes, growing in tandem with them.
The dimensions of growth for ESnet

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

ESnet network map showing LHC data challenge traffic sending nearly 100Gbps from Amsterdam to Boston
ESnet network map showing LHC data challenge traffic sending nearly 100Gbps from Amsterdam to Boston.

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.

ESnet Highlights from ZeekWeek’21

Fatema Bannat Wala presenting at ZeekWeek21

Slides and videos from ZeekWeek have just been made available — here are links to ESnet highlights.

ZeekWeek, an annual Fall conference organized by the Zeek Project, took place online from October 13-15 this year. The conference had over 2000 registered participants from the open source user community this year, who got together to share the latest and greatest about this cyber-security and network monitoring software tool.

Berkeley Lab staff member Vern Paxson developed the precursor to the Zeek intrusion detection software, then called Bro, in 1994. As an early adopter, ESnet’s cybersecurity team has strong relationships with the Zeek community, and this ZeekWeek was an opportunity to showcase advances and uses made by the software by ESnet and the entire Research and Educational Networking Community.

The talk “DNS and Spoofed traffic investigation with Zeek,” presented by Fatema Bannat Wala, discussed how Zeek is being used to do network traffic analysis/investigations at ESnet by triaging abnormal activities when these occur on our network.

The talks “A Better Way to Capture Packets with DPDK” and “Details for DPDK plugin development and performance measurement presented by Vlad Grigorescu and Scott Campbell, detailed the development process of the plugin and the performance enhancements it brings to the network packet capture technology.

Fatema Bannat Wala also did a training session on “Introduction to Zeek,” which provided hands-on experience with Zeek tools and information about how to get involved with the collaboration.

ESnet’s cybersecurity team looks forward to continued collaboration with the Zeek community, attending next year’s ZeekWeek, and to contributing future code enhancements to this great software ecosystem.

ESnet Machine Learning Researchers Win Best Paper at MLN ‘2021!

MLN '2021 Best Paper Award Notification

Sheng Shen, Mariam Kiran, and Bashir Mohammed have just been awarded the Best Paper award at the International Conference on Machine Learning for Networking (MLN). Sponsored by the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), the École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs en Électrotechnique et Électronique (ESIEE), and Laboratoire d’Informatique Gaspard-Monge (LIGM), MLN is being held virtually 1-3 December 2021.

The paper, “DynamicDeepFlow: An Approach for Identifying Changes in Network Traffic Flow Using Unsupervised Clustering,” uses a hybrid of deep learning variational autoencoder model and a shallow learning k-means to help identify unique traffic patterns across ESnet. These unique patterns can help identify if a new experiment has started or whether current network bandwidth is changing.

DynamicDeepFlow (DDF) model structure

“We’re very excited to receive this recognition and the conference was a wonderful opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas with peers in France. MLN is a conference dedicated to discussing machine learning applications in networks. Our next task is to integrate DynamicDeepflow with Netpredict to show real-time information in ESnet data” — Mariam Kiran

Papers from MLN will be published as post-proceedings in Springer’s Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS).

ESnet Highlights from the National Science Foundation’s Cybersecurity Summit ’21

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, Trusted CI Project hosts a yearly cybersecurity summit, inviting people from various NSF-funded research organizations to share innovations and ideas. Here are some videos of ESnet presentations.

Scott Campbell presented “ESnet Security Group Impact on Network Architecture” where he discussed some of the social, technical, and architectural outcomes of the ESnet6 network upgrade that were beneficial to the organization. By being involved early, security design elements were incorporated into workflows at early stages and were both tightly integrated and vetted during the core design process. This early involvement also heightened the security group’s visibility, which led to a better understanding of how the various groups interact and their different methods of problem-solving and time management.

Eli Dart and Fatema Bannat Wala presented “Best practices for securing Science DMZ,” focusing on disentangling security policies and enforcement for science flows from traditional security approaches for business systems, and use of the Science DMZ model to protect high-performance science flows. They discussed thinking of the Science DMZ as a security architecture that provides useful and implementable security controls without impacting performance. 

Science begins as a Conversation! See how ESnet creates a world where conversations become discovery. Watch our new video now!

Ever want to know how big research data moves around the globe? ESnet plays a significant role in supporting the great scientific conversations, collaborations, and experiments underway, wherever and whenever they occur. We move Exabytes of data around the world creating a global laboratory that accelerates scientific discovery.

In order to meet these needs of scientists, we are constantly looking for opportunities to expand our capabilities with our next generation network ESnet6, intelligent edge analytics, advanced network testbeds, 5G wireless, quantum networking and more.

How the World’s Fastest Science Network Was Built

Created in 1986, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) is a high-performance network built to support unclassified science research. ESnet connects more than 40 DOE research sites—including the entire National Laboratory system, supercomputing facilities and major scientific instruments—as well as hundreds of other science networks around the world and the Internet.

Funded by DOE’s Office of Science and managed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), ESnet moves about 51  petabytes of scientific data every month. This is a 13-step guide about how ESnet has evolved over 30 years.

Step 1: When fusion energy scientists inherit a cast-off supercomputer, add 4 dialup modems so the people at the Princeton lab can log in. (1975)


Step 2: When landlines prove too unreliable, upgrade to satellites! Data screams through space. (1981)


Step 3: Whose network is best? High Energy Physics (HEPnet)? Fusion Physics (MFEnet)?  Why argue? Merge them into one-Energy Sciences Network (ESnet)-run by the Department of Energy!  Go ESnet! (1986)


Step 4: Make it even faster with DUAL Satellite links! We’re talking 56 kilobits per second! Except for the Princeton fusion scientists – they get 112 Kbps! (1987)


Step 5:  Whoa, when an upgrade to 1.5 MEGAbits per second isn’t enough, add ATM (not the money machine, but Asynchronous Transfer Mode) to get more bang for your buck. (1995)


Step 6: Duty now for the future—roll out the very first IPv6 address to ensure there will be enough Internet addresses for decades to come. (2000)


Step 7: Crank up the fastest links in the network to 10 GIGAbits per second—16 times faster than the old gear—a two-generation leap in network upgrades at one time. (2003)


Step 8: Work with other networks to develop really cool tools, like the perfSONAR toolkit for measuring and improving end-to-end network performance and OSCARS (On-Demand Secure Circuit and Advance Reservation), so you can reserve a high-speed, end-to-end connection to make sure your data is delivered on time. (2006)


Step 9: Why just rent fiber? Pick up your own dark fiber network at a bargain price for future expansion. In the meantime, boost your bandwidth to 100G for everyone. (2012)


Step 10: Here’s a cool idea, come up with a new network design so that scientists moving REALLY BIG DATASETS can safely avoid institutional firewalls, call it the Science DMZ, and get research moving faster at universities around the country. (2012)



Step 11: We’re all in this science thing together, so let’s build faster ties to Europe. ESnet adds three 100G lines (and a backup 40G link) to connect researchers in the U.S. and Europe. (2014)


Step 12: 100G is fast, but it’s time to get ready for 400G. To pave the way, ESnet installs a production 400G network between facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Calif., and even provides a 400G testbed so network engineers can get up to speed on the technology. (2015)


Step 13: Celebrate 30 years as a research and education network leader, but keep looking forward to the next level. (2016)


NRL and Collaborators Conduct 100 Gigabit/Second Remote I/O Demonstration

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), in collaboration with the DOE’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the International Center for Advanced Internet Research (iCAIR) at Northwestern University, the Center for Data Intensive Science (CDIS) at the University of Chicago, the Open Cloud Consortium (OCC) and significant industry support, have conducted a 100 gigabits per second (100G) remote I/O demonstration at the SC14 supercomputing conference in New Orleans, LA.

The remote I/O demonstration illustrates a pipelined distributed processing framework and software defined networking (SDN) between distant operating locations. The demonstration shows the capability to dynamically deploy a production quality 4K Ultra-High Definition Television (UHDTV) video workflow across a nationally distributed set of storage and computing resources that is relevant to emerging Department of Defense data processing challenges.

Visit the My Esnet Portal at to view real-time network traffic on ESnet.
Visit the My Esnet Portal at to view real-time network traffic on ESnet.

Read more:

ESnet gives CISCO Nerd Lunch talk, learns televangelism is harder than it seems

As science transitions from lab-oriented to a distributed computational and data-intensive activity, the research and education (R&E) networking community is tracking the growing data needs of scientists. Huge instruments like the Large Hadron Collider are being planned and built. These projects require global-scale collaborations and contributions from thousands of scientists, and as the data deluge from the instruments grows, even more scientists are interested in analyzing it for the next breakthrough discovery. Suffice it to say that even though worldwide video consumption on the Internet is driving a similar increase in commercial bandwidth, the scale, characteristics, and requirements of scientific data traffic is quite different.

And this is why ESnet got invited to Cisco Systems’ headquarters last week to talk about how we how we handle data as part of their regular Nerd Lunch talk series. What I found interesting although not surprising, was that with Cisco being a big evangelist of telepresence, more employees attended the talk from their desks than in person.  This was a first for me and I came away with a new appreciation for the challenges of collaborating across distances.

From a speaker’s perspective, the lesson learnt by me was to brush up my acting skills. My usual preparations are to rehearse the difficult transitions and  focus on remembering the few important points to make on every slide. When presenting, that slide presentation portion of my brain goes on auto-pilot, while my focus turns towards evaluating the impact on the audience. When speaking at a podium one can observe when someone in the audience opens a notebook to jot down a thought, when their attention drifts to email on the laptop in front of them, or when a puzzled look appears on the face of someone as they try to figure out the impact of the point I’m trying to make. But these visual cues go missing with a largely webcast audience, making it harder to know when to stop driving home a point or when to explain the point further to the audience.  In the future, I’ll have to be better at keeping the talk interesting without the usual clues from my audience.

Maybe the next innovation in virtual-reality telepresence is just waiting to happen?

Notwithstanding the challenges of presenting to a remote audience, enabling remote collaboration is extremely important to ESnet. Audio, video and web collaboration is a key service offered by us to the DOE labs. ESnet employees use video extensively in our day-to-day operations. The “ESnet watercooler”, a 24×7 open video bridge, is used internally by our distributed workforce to discuss technical issues, as well as, to have ad-hoc meetings on topics of interest. As science goes increasingly global, scientists are also using this important ESnet service for their collaborations.

With my brief stint in front of a stage now over, it is back to ESnet and then on to the 100G invited panel/talk at IEEE ANTS conference in Mumbai. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!

Inder Monga

Why this spiking network traffic?

ESnet November 2010 Traffic

Last month was the first in which the ESnet network crossed a major threshold – over 10 petabytes of traffic! Traffic volume was 40% higher than the prior month and 10 times higher than just a little over 4 years ago. But what’s behind this dramatic increase in network utilization?  Could it be the extreme loads ESnet circuits carried for SC10, we wondered?

Breaking down the ESnet traffic highlighted a few things.  Turns out it wasn’t all that demonstration traffic sent across thousands of miles to the Supercomputing Conference in New Orleans (151.99 TB delivered), since that accounted for only slightly more than 1% of November’s ESnet-borne traffic.  We observed for the first time significant volumes of genomics data traversing the network as the Joint Genome Institute sent over 1 petabyte of data to NERSC. JGI alone accounted for about 10% of last month’s traffic volume. And as we’ve seen since it went live in March, the Large Hadron Collider continues to churn out massive datasets as it increases its luminosity, which ESnet delivers to researchers across the US.

Summary of Total ESnet Traffic, Nov. 2010

Total Bytes Delivered: 10.748 PB
Total Bytes OSCARS Delivered: 5.870 PB
Pecentage of OSCARS Delivered: 54.72%

What is is really going on is quite prosaic, but to us, exciting. We can follow the progress of distributed scientific projects such as the LHC  by tracking the proliferation of our network traffic, as the month-to-month traffic volume on ESnet correlates to the day-to-day conduct of science. Currently, Fermi and Brookhaven LHC data continue to dominate the volume of network traffic, but as we see, production and sharing of large data sets by the genomics community is picking up steam. What the stats are predicting: as science continues to become more data-intensive, the role of the network will become ever more important.