Behind the scenes of Internet2

New network operations manager excited about Dynamic Circuit Network, multicast and IPv6

How would you describe your end users/customers?

Varied. There are a lot of students that put a fairly consistent demand on the network. But there's a smaller subset of researchers that really challenge us to grow the network and keep adding services. Most of them are fairly network-savvy and understand the capabilities and limitations of a high-speed national data network. We seek to collaborate with these researchers not only on meeting their current demands, but on trying to explore and shape what will be needed in the future.

What are some of the cooler applications you've seen Internet2 used for of late?

The Dynamic Circuit Network is obviously very exciting because of the new directions it can take us. I'm very pleased to be involved in a project that can do so much for research. It's humbling to collaborate with researchers working on projects that will provide real benefit for future generations.

The Internet2 Network is expected to play an essential role for physicists to investigate the properties of dark matter and the origins of the universe when the Large Hadron Collider, a new particle accelerator currently under development at CERN in Switzerland, begins operating next year. The project will be massive - expected to produce roughly 15 million gigabytes of data annually for analysis by scientists around the globe. Over 70 Internet2 university members expect to participate, each with a need to download or transmit, about 2 terabytes of data over a four-hour window, every two weeks. By leveraging the "on demand" capabilities of the network, researchers should be able to provision the bandwidth needed for their allotted time.

We are seeing other interesting scientific applications by researchers in fields like radio astronomy who are experimenting with dynamic circuit networks to support breakthroughs. Specifically, there is a technique in radio astronomy called Very Long Baseline Interferometry [VLBI], which is considered one of the most powerful methodologies for high-resolution imaging of distant radio sources in the universe. VLBI has traditionally been done by physically shipping tapes or disk packs from the telescopes to a central correlator for processing, which is for obvious reasons, a labor- and time-intensive task. Internet2 members along with our global network partners are helping to make electronic transmission of VLBI data, or eVLBI, possible - this approach allows scientists to dynamically link telescopes around the world via dedicated optical circuits to the correlator.

In doing so, scientists can have immediate access to correlation results, even while experiments are in progress, which allows them to analyze the data immediately to make adjustments or changes in their approach to maximize their results. In doing so, eVLBI essentially creates a virtual radio telescope with a diameter nearly the size of the Earth. Astronomers are excited about the significant impact this type of technology will have on their work.

How much of your job involves network security and what is Internet2's approach to keeping the bad guys at bay?

Security is a 24/7 job. We partner with the REN-ISAC (Research and Education Network - Information Sharing and Analysis Center) to do distributed denial-of-service monitoring of netflow data. We provide both REN-ISAC and our members with mechanisms to proactively mitigate attacks without involving us, but provide support as needed. Campus networks are a prime target for botnet solicitation and other such exploits. The security of campus networks is best handled by the campuses themselves, but we do provide support where we can from a backbone perspective. Being an academic network, we don't want to make any presumptions about how open or closed campus networks want to be. Our job is to secure the network infrastructure itself.

Anything else come to mind?

Another exciting new aspect of the Internet2 Network is our ability to run multiple networks on the same infrastructure through the use of distinct lambdas or virtual circuits through the Dynamic Circuit Network. In building the network in this manner, we are able to provide dedicated facilities to network researchers who are pushing the envelope on the development of brand new protocols and architectures for networking --- this could include a researcher at a university, or a corporate start-up that needs a short-term nationwide wave footprint to test a new concept in networking that a commercial carrier might not want to sell them. Providing testbed facilities on a separate wavelength allows researchers to essentially break the network without harming the production traffic. We look forward to working with network researchers on exciting new network research projects such as the National Science Foundation's GENI project.

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Bob Brown

Network World
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