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At the bleeding edge: Esnet officials test optical provisioning, IPv6

Q&A with Energy Sciences Network officials

By Carolyn Duffy Marsan, Network World
May 11, 2005 12:01 AM ET

Last week's newsletter featured the first of a two-part Q&A with U.S. Department of Energy officials responsible for the Energy Sciences Network, one of the fastest IP networks in the world and a pioneer of IP technology. We conclude the Q&A in today's issue.

ESnet is a nationwide IP backbone linking Energy Department's headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md. with more than 40 sites including many national laboratories. ESnet's ring-shaped backbone network operates at 10G bit/sec in the northern states and 2.5G bit/sec in the southern states.

Here are excerpts from my conversation with Mary Ann Scott, ESnet program manager, and Daniel Hitchcock, a senior technical advisor on ESnet, about their experiences with the latest IP technologies.

Carolyn Marsan: What are you debugging right now for the rest of the world?

Daniel Hitchcock: We're starting to debug how you do optical networks and how you provision optical networks flexibly so you can set up Lambdas from point to point.

CM: Where are you doing that?

DH: ESnet and our [test bed] Science UltraNet together are figuring out how to do this. We're looking at how you adjust the interfaces in the optical switches to make this happen. The vendors claim this capability exists, but it's never actually been exercised. The question is can you hook up two or three dozen of these things together and actually make it work all the way end to end.

CM: What is the status of Science UltraNet and what is its relationship to ESnet?

DH: Science UltraNet is just coming up. The last circuits are now in, and the gear is going in to enable experiments. There are ESnet engineers who are part of Science UltraNet so that what we learn there, we can fold into ESnet. Science UltraNet goes from Oak Ridge National Laboratories [in Tennessee] to Chicago to the West Coast, and there are optical tail circuits that go off of it to Seattle. The bandwidth is two 10G-bit/sec wavelengths.

CM: When do you hope to have Science UltraNet up and operational?

Mary Ann Scott: At the end of April or early May.

CM: What two or three things do you want to learn from Science UltraNet?

DH: The dynamic provisioning of Lambdas. Also, how to hook up an optical network at the end to your optical network if they don't have the same kind of gear. We'll be looking at the systems integration issues and interoperability.

CM: What's the timeframe for the test bed?

MAS: Between three and six years, provided that things are going well.

CM: How soon do you think it will be before you learn something practical from Science UltraNet that you can fold back into ESnet?

DH: From bringing it up and making it work, we'll learn lots of things. You find a lot of things that the vendors didn't think anyone would ever try but don't really work in this environment. There are a lot of things at this level that people don't understand, and you never understand until you build one of these things.

CM: ESnet was an early user of IPv6. What can you tell me about your IPv6 traffic and applications now?

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