The Internet2 community, which includes research and education institutions across the United States, has launched a network virtualisation capability on its national backbone network, enabled by software defined networking (SDN).
Virtualization makes it possible to subdivide a network, allowing it to operate as multiple discrete, private networks. Virtualized networks allow multiple applications to access the scale and innovations of the physical Internet2 network in isolated “slices”, removing the prohibitive barriers to building and operating individual high-specification physical network infrastructures. This kind of virtualisation takes place at the hardware layer.
Describing it as a “fundamental advance in network architecture”, the new capability is now generally available to all users on the Internet2 network.
The virtualisation capability builds upon the OpenFlow-enabled hardware that Internet2 put in place on its 100G backbone network in the summer of 2012.
Internet2 commissioned a new piece of software, called FlowSpace Firewall, which has been added to the Internet2 production network. The software allows slices of OpenFlow capabilities to be partitioned across nearly forty 100G-attached access nodes throughout the country. In essence, this new software protects each network slice from overconsumption of resources by other slices. This capability, the first of its kind according to Internet2, is now available to support the important work of the research and education (R&E) community’s data-intensive science and academic operations.
Two $10 million projects were recently awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will utilize the new capability – Chameleon and CloudLab. These projects will enable the academic and research communities to experiment and advance cloud computing architectures that can support a new generation of innovative applications—including real-time and safety-critical applications like those used in medical devices, power grids, and transportation systems.
“By connecting CloudLab to Internet2’s nationwide SDN network, we can give researchers a level of end-to-end network programmability that is unprecedented in a cloud platform,” said Robert Ricci, a research assistant professor of computer science at the University of Utah and principal investigator of CloudLab. “Having this level of control, programmability, and visibility into the network will enable the research community to push the boundaries of cloud networking and explore the future of network architectures for the cloud.”
Internet2 expects many more examples to follow as the R&E community capitalizes on the new accessibility for provisioning and operating networks, which allows local network operators to extend their reach across a global architecture and enables entirely new test-bed capabilities across secure and discrete virtualized networks. These new capabilities catalyze research collaboration, accelerate discovery, and create new scientific and technological innovations, the community says.
By Pauline Rigby