Berkeley Lab Research News banner Berkeley Lab logo
August 31, 2004
U.S. Department of Energy's ESnet to Increase Network Performance and Reliability With Metropolitan Area Networks

BERKELEY, CA – Responding to the increasingly data-intensive demands of the scientific community, the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) is implementing a new architecture of connected Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Esnet, which is managed by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is a high-speed network serving thousands of DOE scientists and collaborators worldwide. A pioneer in providing reliable high-bandwidth connections, ESnet enables researchers at national laboratories, universities, and other institutions to communicate with each other using the collaborative capabilities needed to address some of the world's most important scientific challenges. ESnet connects 40 sites nationally and provides high-speed connectivity for DOE collaborations with the U.S. research and education community and for collaborations with international science communities in Europe and Asia.

ESnet's current architecture consists of a national core network connecting six hubs. The individual sites are connected to the hubs in a single circuit, in spoke-like fashion. However, for reasons of both reliability and bandwidth, this architecture is insufficient to meet future demands.

Over the past two years, two workshops sponsored by DOE's Office of Science examined a set of major DOE science disciplines. They determined that the process of science related to computing and communication must change over the next decade in order to make significant progress. Such changes include:

  • using massive amounts of distributed data,
  • coupling multiple simulation components that run at different locations,
  • and accessing, using, and managing computing resources that are scattered over much of the globe.

"The network capabilities that address these requirements include high-bandwidth connectivity, guaranteed bandwidth services, and highly reliable network connectivity," said Bill Johnston, project manager for ESnet. "We just couldn't meet these needs with our previous architecture."

Johnston added, "One benefit of the ring structure of the MANs is that it will provide the national labs with redundant access to the network, thus providing substantially increased reliability. Additionally, multiple optical channels will allow for ESnet to provide new services identified in the science requirements, in particular guaranteed high-bandwidth channels."

The new MANs, the first of which will be built in the San Francisco Bay Area, will be based on multiple, 10-gigabit-per-second (10 Gb/s) optical channels, or "lambdas," that provide high-speed access to the ESnet core network. In the long term, the ring-structured MANs will be connected by more than one national core network, with each national core connecting to the MANs at different physical locations for increased wide-area reliability, Johnston said.

The San Francisco Bay Area ESnet MAN will be a 10 Gb/s ring and will connect DOE's Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), the ESnet core network hub in Sunnyvale, CA (run by Qwest Communications International, Inc.), and the Sunnyvale site of Level 3 Communications, Inc., which includes a National Lambda Rail hub with access to DOE's UltraScience Net.

The San Francisco Bay Area MAN has just received approval and funding from DOE. Engineering and construction should take about six months. This will be followed by six months of testing and integration into the production of ESnet. Some sites will require less construction and will be connected earlier within this time frame.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our website at

Additional information