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Internet2 VP Talks Software-Defined Networking and 100 Gbps Offerings

October 04, 2012

Internet2 VP Talks Software-Defined Networking and 100 Gbps Offerings

By Joan Engebretson
Contributing Editor

Internet2, the high-speed, nationwide academic and research network, always seems to be rolling out some new cutting-edge technology. Recently, the organization began upgrading its network to support 100 Gbps speeds, possibly making it the most extensive 100 Gbps network available in the U.S. today.

This week, the organization announced several really interesting new network capabilities – all of which could eventually find their way into commercial networks.

The new capabilities include what Internet2 is calling an “Advanced Layer 3 Service,” a new 100 Gbps software-defined network and over 8.8 tbps of optical network capacity through 88 100 Gbps waves delivered through a partnership with the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet).

I checked in this week with Rob Vietzke, vice president of Internet2, to get some details about these new offerings.

Advanced layer 3 service

What’s different about Internet2’s advanced layer 3 service in comparison with other layer 3 services is that Internet2 has made a “commitment to headroom and to support of a small number of very large flows,” said Vietzke.

Commercial networks, he said, are typically optimized for 80 to 90 percent utilization. If they have a 10-gigabit link, they try to fill it with traffic from multiple sources, whereas Internet2 with its new service tries to reserve 10 Gbps between devices.

Internet2’s Advanced Layer 3 Service aims for utilization of no more than 40 percent. “When we get to 40 percent, we add more capacity,” explained Vietzke. Using this approach, he said, individual users “always have headroom for what they’re doing.”

Software-defined networking

Internet2’s software defined networking capability has now been deployed at 11 nodes on the organization’s 100 Gbps network. The first application of the technology is software designed in cooperation with Indiana University (News - Alert) that controls all of the SDN-capable switches so that authorized users can set up virtual LANS between one another.

“We call it our distributed national Layer 2 network,” said Vietzke – and critical to that network is an exchange that authorized members can share.

The next stage will be to allow individual universities or research partners to use the Internet2 platform to support their SDN-based applications. For example, a university or research partner might create an application to optimize data transfer between virtual machines in remote data centers.

“We can divide the network into multiple SDN domains,” he said. “The first piece is the virtual open exchange.”

Moving forward, Vietzke expects authorized users to be able to connect to the exchange to use part of the SDN network for their own use.

He noted, however, that because the underlying infrastructure is shared, it will be critical to make sure that one user’s application does not interfere with that of another user.

“We’re doing work with Indiana University and Stanford University to work on virtualization software to allow us to set up a guardrail,” said Vietzke.

Once an authorized user reserves bandwidth, that user won’t be able to “get out of its lane to get into someone else’s,” he explained.

8.8 Tbps optical network

An important function of Internet2’s 8.8 Tbps optical network is to make individual 100 Gbps waves available to authorized users on an as-needed basis to support the transfer of really large data sets, such as those used by astronomers or in genome research.

Potentially, an individual application might even be able to use more than one wave simultaneously, Vietzke said.

If this seems like overkill, that was a deliberate decision on the part of Internet2.

“We want to be way out in front and ready for demand as it comes,” commented Vietzke.

And while some of Internet2’s new networking initiatives may not find their way to commercial networks for quite some time, others may be more commercially viable than one might expect.

Vietzke noted, for example, that he could envision commercial operators setting up SDN resources in a way similar to that used by Internet2 in as soon as two years.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Austin 2012, happening now in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker
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