Peering Facility Pacific Wave Uses SDN to Support Dynamic Big Data Connectivity

By Joan Engebretson November 29, 2012

We’re beginning to get accustomed to news involving software-defined network applications within individual service provider networks. But Pacific Wave now has the ability to use SDN within its international peering facility to enable service providers to dynamically establish circuits between one another.

Pacific Wave is a joint project of the Corporation for Education and Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) and the Pacific Northwest Gigapop (PNWGP), and its dynamic circuit provisioning capability is based on the On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advanced Reservation System (OSCARS) developed by the U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Sciences Network (ESNet).

“This software is a form of SDN,” wrote a Pacific Wave spokesperson in response to an e-mail inquiry from TMCNet. “Reservations can be made literally seconds before [circuits] are used, so it’s pretty much real-time on-demand.”

Pacific Wave expects dynamic circuit provisioning to be popular primarily with scientific researchers, including those that want to facilitate connections between different science DMZs.

“The most common disciplines that use this are those that involve any sort of ‘big data’ transfer, so that would be apps relating to genomics, ocean research, astronomy, high-energy physics, etc.,” the spokesperson said.

The OSCARS software has some strong credentials, having supported the likes of the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. OSCARS enabled the JGI to meet an urgent need for increased computing resources by establishing a high-speed connection to the Magellan cloud computing cluster at National Energy Research Scientific Computing (NERSC).

The JGI and NERSC were already interconnected via ESNet, and after a day of brainstorming, people from JGI, NERSC and ESNet made the decision to use OSCARS to set up a virtual circuit between the two facilities that would appear to JGI users to be part of JGI’s network. It took technical staff at NERSC another day to configure hundreds of processor cores to mimic JGI’s local computing clusters, but the high-speed circuit between the JGI and NERSC was established within an hour.

The Pacific Wave international peering facility is intended primarily to serve research and education network members. It has some commercial members, including Google and Microsoft, but as the Pacific Wave spokesperson explained, “any connection is always made because of a tangible benefit to one of our R&E member networks or institutions – commercial entities that would like to connect would have to request that an R&E Pacific Wave participant with whom they interact contact us on their behalf.”

For example, the spokesperson noted that the University of Montana finds it very useful to use Pacific Wave to connect to Microsoft because “it makes downloading their updates a snap.” Pacific Wave has little to no traffic that goes between two commercial endpoints, the spokesperson said.

The Pacific Wave peering facility connects to the major academic research and education networks in the U.S. and the Pacific Rim, including both National LambdaRail and Internet2. “Pacific Wave is in fact the dominant means by which nearly all the world’s R&E networks cross the Pacific Ocean,” the spokesperson said.

In addition to using SDN to support dynamic circuit provisioning, Pacific Wave is involved with SDN in some other ways, too, the spokesperson said. “We have also enabled OpenFlow-based research as well by connecting to CENIC’s COTN (California OpenFlow Testbed Network)  and also support GENI research  and the DYNES project,” said the spokesperson.

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing Editor

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