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ESnet4 Rolls Out New Cross-Country 10 Gbps Network

The first national ring of ESnet4 went live over the summer, marking a key accomplishment for a long-term plan to build the next-generation science network for researchers working in DOE's national labs, universities and industry. The network ring, the first of several to be built, runs across the country with northern and southern routes before meeting up at various locations along the east and west coast. ESnet4 will enable researchers to send and obtain raw data and research results at a significantly faster rate and with greater reliability. The infrastructure underlying ESnet4 is a joint project between ESnet and Internet2.

"The ESnet staff has once again demonstrated that they have the knowledge, experience and dedication to accomplish major paradigm shifts in the service that ESnet provides to DOE's Office of Science community," said William Johnston, head of ESnet at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The partnership between ESnet and Internet2 brings together the expertise of two organizations that provide network services to the majority of scientists in the country. More than 50,000 DOE scientists and 18,000 researchers from universities, other government agencies and private businesses rely on ESnet. Internet2 serves 5 million users at 270 research and educational institutions.

ESnet and Internet2 first announced their partnership to build and deploy the ESnet4 optical circuit-based infrastructure in August last year. After signing an initial agreement to work on the project, the two organizations inked a multi-year extension of that agreement in July this year.

"This continued investment in ESnet by the Department of Energy's Office of Science represents a significant contribution to the nation's research and education infrastructure. In fact, as the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science provides research funding for thousands of scientists at universities," Johnston said.

The agreement between ESnet and Internet2 stems from the conclusion that by sharing a common optical circuit infrastructure that is larger than either community could obtain individually, both DOE's and the U.S. research and education community's research would have access to a network infrastructure bigger than either community could build on their own. Another factor supporting the partnership is the fact that nearly 90 percent of the network traffic on ESnet flows to and from the research and education community.

ESnet4 consists of three main elements: the IP network for transferring data at gigabytes or less; the circuit-oriented Science Data Network for moving terabytes of data; and the metropolitan area networks for connecting research centers in the same region to each other and to the IP network and Science Data Network. The Science Data Network will provide ondemand, virtual circuits that will ensure the timely delivery of massive research materials. The project to develop the virtual circuit services is an international collaboration involving ESnet, Internet2, HOPI, NSF's Dragon research network, DOE's Ultra Science Net, CANARIE in Canada, DANTE/GEANT and several of the NRENs in Europe, as well as others.

The deployment of the first national network ring is timely for scientists in disciplines such as high-energy physics. The Fermi Accelerator National Laboratory near Chicago and Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island in New York will be the data archive centers in the United States to store, process and distribute data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva. LHC, which is scheduled to begin operation next May, will generate roughly 15 petabytes of data annually.

The 10 Gbps national ring represents the first phase of the overall ESnet4 project. Anticipating a significant growth in network traffic in years to come, ESnet and Internet2 set out to build the new network that will meet the researchers' needs. Plans are in place to boost the network's capacity over the next five years, when it will reach more than 200 Gbps.

Through the use of increasingly sophisticated scientific instruments, more powerful supercomputers running more sophisticated models, and parallel file mover systems, scientists are generating a steadily increasing amount of data that must be shared by widely distributed collaborations.

In fact, the traffic on the pre-ESnet4 network has had a steady increase of 10 times every 47 months, on average, since 1990. With a new generation of instruments and computers coming on-line in the next several years (starting with the LHC), this rate of growth is expected to increase dramatically.

"By working with Internet2 to increase the reliability and capacity of ESnet, our goal is to advance scientific discovery through access to large-scale scientific resources and improved collaborations. Further, the strategy of building ESnet4 as a partnership with the R&E community was specifically intended by DOE's Office of Science to contribute to the robustness of the U.S. R&E network environment," Johnston said.

ESnet4, which builds on Internet2's backbone infrastructure, will be managed by ESnet. Learn more about ESnet4 at