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GLIF Accelerates Optical Networking

22 October 2010

The 10th Annual Global LambdaGrid Workshop was held on the 13th and 14th of October 2010 at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. The home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was an appropriate venue as this multinational experiment is one of the biggest users of state-of-the-art optical networking, and also one of the most active participants in the GLIF community. Nearly 100 people attended the event, which included managers, engineers, researchers and developers from national research and education networks (NRENs), universities, research institutions and industry around the world.

The keynote speech was given by Ian Bird of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid. This is a collaboration linking computing facilities in different parts of the world in order to distribute, store and analyze the huge amounts of data generated by the LHC. It relies heavily on high-speed optical networks to achieve this, and whilst these currently have sufficient capacity to supply the existing Tier 1 and 2 data centres, there is still a need to improve automation as well as reach more outlying parts of the world.

The opening plenary session also featured Greg Cole (GLORIAD) who presented how the Taj project was extending optical connectivity to India, Egypt and parts of South-East Asia and Africa. There followed presentations from Steve Cotter (ESnet) on the Advanced Networking Initiative which aimed to build a 100 Gb/s testbed connecting three supercomputing facilities at US Department of Energy sites; from Ron Johnson (University of Washington) on how cloud computing was being utilized to process data from undersea ocean observatories; and from Steven Newhouse ( on the recently established organisation that is coordinating National Grid Initiatives.

The following afternoon and morning sessions were devoted to working group meetings that deal with governance, research and applications, and technical issues.

The Technical Working Group opened with updates on current GLIF Open Lightpath Exchanges (GOLEs), the potential new GOLEs in Egypt and Singapore, and Internet2’s ION service. This was followed by discussions on the ongoing work to develop dynamic lightpath services inside GOLEs, as well the practical applications for this. The perfSONAR Task Force had demonstrated the benefits and potential of using perfSONAR to monitor lightpaths and GOLEs, and GOLE operators agreed on keeping the perfSONAR instances running even though the Task Force was wrapped up; its leader Thomas Tam (CANARIE) being thanked for his continued efforts.

The various standardization efforts were also reported upon, and consensus was reached among the participants that the work of the OGF Working Group NSI is the way forward as the protocol for interdomain dynamic lightpath provisioning. Various implementators of dynamic lightpath provisioning software agreed to convert to pre-standard NSI right after the meeting, and to work with OGF to standardize the NSI work as soon as feasible.

The Research and Applications Working Group aims to identify research and applications that both develop infrastructure and use it, and to educate scientists about the possibilities of LambdaGrids. This session presented an overview of multi-national application and middleware experiments: an application that takes advantage of 40 Gb/s networks; an educational program to encourage student use of lightpaths in research; network tools to study end-to-end performance of streaming media; the iGENI initiative that allows disruptive testing of new networking technologies; and HPDMnet which allows the dynamic distribution of high performance digital media. The practical issues of establishing end-to-end lightpaths over multiple domains were also covered.

During the evening of the first day, several demonstrations were organized that included the first PC-to-PC transmission of a single data stream at close to 26 Gb/s speeds (which is the limit of the PCI bus rather than the network); the transmission of an extremely detailed 3D visualization of a dark matter simulation that employed multiple streams to take advantage of nearly the full capacity of a 40 Gb/s link; and dynamic provisioning of high definition media streams from Poland. There was also a demonstration of how automated GOLEs are able to establish lightpaths on demand between each other, along with a resource management framework and a high-performance packet inspection system.

The following morning, the Governance Working Group approved the budget for the forthcoming year and discussed ways of encouraging GLIF participants to become sponsors. It also discussed the promotion of GLIF at events such as the IEEE/ACM Supercomputing Conference, and confirmed the venue of the next annual workshop.

The closing plenary session saw presentations from Artur Serra (i2CAT) on how optical networks enable the broadcasting of cultural events using very high definition video; from Bill St. Arnaud on the increasing energy demands of computing devices and the challenges this brings; and from Rick Stevens (Argonne National Laboratory), who presented remotely from the US, on the projected development of exascale computing facilities.

There followed a stimulating panel session on 100 Gb/s networking. This was moderated by Jerry Sobieski (NORDUnet) and featured Lars Fischer (NORDUnet), Maurizio Gazzola (Cisco), Inder Monga (ESnet), Bill St. Arnaud, and Dave Yeung (Ciena). It discussed where 100 Gb/s networks would likely be deployed and in which environments, their energy requirements, and which applications would be able to take advantage of such networks. It also touched on what was coming after 100 Gb/s, such as terabit networks.

The workshop concluded with the traditional closing address from Kees Neggers (SURFnet), the GLIF Chair, who said:

“CERN was an excellent host for the 10th GLIF Global LambdaGrid Workshop which brought together almost one hundred leading users and providers of research networking for a two day event. The additional presence of many advanced and demanding users from the CERN community created the perfect environment for the participants to push the leading edge in lambda networking, evidenced by several successful demonstrations and many inspiring talks and discussions.”

GLIF would like to express its thanks to CERN for hosting this event. The 11th Annual Global LambdaGrid Workshop will be held on 13-14 September 2011 in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), hosted by RNP.

The proceedings of the workshop are available at

About GLIF
The Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF) is an international virtual organization of NRENs, consortia and institutions that promotes lambda networking. GLIF provides lambdas internationally as an integrated facility to support data-intensive scientific research, and supports middleware development for lambda networking. It brings together some of the world’s premier networking engineers to develop an international infrastructure by identifying equipment, connection requirements, and necessary engineering functions and services. More information is available on the GLIF website at

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