Building the World's Most Reliable Network: ESnet's Sandy Merola Honored

May 16, 1996

By Jeffery Kahn, [email protected]


When you think of computer networks, wires and routers and protocols come to mind. Jim Leighton, who manages the ESnet network linking DOE Energy Science research sites, says the real secret to a free-flowing network is getting people to work together.

"Cooperation between every site on the network is the key," says Leighton. "Sandy Merola has been instrumental in forging the cooperation that distinguishes ESnet. He is one of the key architects of ESnet."

For the past seven years, Merola, the deputy director of Computing Sciences here, has chaired ESnet's steering committee. It is composed of member scientists who are users of the network and includes site and distributed computing coordinating subcommittees. According to Steve Wolf, former head of the National Science Foundation's computing and networking group, this group is the single most-effective committee in government.

With the move of ESnet headquarters from Livermore to here, Merola has stepped down as chair of the committee but remains as a member. Last week, Dave Nelson, director of DOE's Office of Computational and Technology Research, came here to honor Merola for his service.

Nelson presented Merola a plaque signed by Martha Krebs, director of DOE's Office of Energy Research. It reads: "In recognition for outstanding and visionary chairmanship of the Energy Science Network (ESnet) Steering Committee from 1989 to 1996. You led the ESSC through a major upgrade of the network's capabilities and through a reorganization of the committee's concerns to a greater focus on the role of the network in enabling research. The result is that ESnet is truly DOE's network for the future."

Merola says the steering committee he had chaired must foresee future network needs of researchers such as videoconferencing, distributed computing, and the ability to remotely operate DOE national user facilities. "We spell out future needs but," said Merola, "the real implementation is done by the ESnet staff and the committee members at their respective sites." Networks are evolving very quickly, says Merola. Circa 1970, the first traffic began to flow over computer networks at the rate of about 40 words a second. Today, ESnet moves about one million words a second.

"Right now," said Merola, "ESnet is the world's fastest and most respected production computing network. Jim Leighton and his staff deserve much of the credit for ESnet's success. We can do things that were inconceivable 20 years ago. The job from here is to be able to say the same thing in the decades ahead."