Internet2 readies 100G OpenFlow SDN for Big Data

Engineers putting final touches on nationwide programmable app dev network

Internet2 is nearing completion of its OpenFlow-enabled 100G Ethernet software-defined network for testing service delivery of applications for Big Data compilation and research, among others.

At next week's Summer 2012 ESCC/Internet2 Joint Techs meeting at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., 300 Internet2 network engineers will collaborate to define the technologies and capabilities that will bring about the Innovation Platform, which Internet2 touts as the U.S.'s first open SDN network. To date, more than 20 Internet2 member universities and regional networks have asked to become collaborators in piloting the platform, the organization says.

Access links will be 10G and 100G Ethernet. Internet2 has already written an OpenFlow-based SDN application for Layer 2 VLAN provisioning.

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The latest infrastructure additions are 100G Ethernet OpenFlow-enabled routers from Brocade and Juniper at 35 to 45 sites. Brocade's MLX and NetIron systems, and Juniper's MX series routers will enable programmatic control of the Innovation Platform from an open source NOX SDN controller to facilitate scale and intelligent service delivery, according to Internet2.

As an SDN, the Innovation Platform is designed to advance education, university businesses, and global Big Data collaborative research outcomes to enable new research initiatives and new cycles of global economic development, according to Internet2. The programmability aspect will enable further innovation in application development across a community of developers as well, the organization asserts, by allowing network 'slicing,' or the ability to isolate subsets of the network for application development.

It may also allow Internet2 to build an SDN "application store" to allow developers to offer new applications on a trial basis to the research and education community.

"The Internet2 community sees software-defined networking as much of the same transformative opportunity that we saw with the original Internet," says Rob Vietzke, vice president of network services for Internet2. "We're making a fairly big investment in building this new nationwide SDN environment as a platform for software development."

For Big Data, the Innovation Platform will allow member institutions to keep pace with the exponential growth in massive datasets generated by scientific research conducted by collaborative researchers in U.S. labs and universities. But Vietzke also expects advances similar to those in the university environments that created Google and Facebook to possibly emerge from use of the Innovation Platform.

The Innovation Platform was proposed earlier this year by Internet2 as a complement to its NDDI project and the NSF's GENI program. At that time, it was touted as a new $96.5 million national-scale SDN owned by the research and education community.

"A multidomain, wide-area view of what SDN can do is unique," Vietzke says. "If you think back to the early era where the network stack was open, and folks on campus started out with this thing call TCP/IP, and decided they needed this thing called DNS, and came up with this thing called mail transport -- all of that was in an era when networking and the protocol stacks were open and folks were able to innovate. We're hopeful that this 100G backbone with 30-plus nodes across the country doing SDN will provide that same kind of testbed."

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program helped fund Internet2's network upgrade in support of the U.S. Unified Community Anchor Network (UCAN) project. UCAN enables advanced networking capabilities for more than 200,000 of the country's "anchor" institutions, including libraries, hospitals, K-12 schools, community colleges and public safety organizations.

Such capabilities include HD and multicast video distance learning and telemedicine applications, among others, which are not possible using consumer-grade Internet service, according to Internet2.

Vietzke says he expects one or more other "major players" with OpenFlow-enabled products to be announced for the Innovation Platform in the near future.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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