ESnet, Internet2 Take Key Step toward End-to-End Bandwidth Reservation System

May 15, 2006

Two of the nation’s leading networks. ESnet and Internet2, have demonstrated an automated system for providing on-demand end-to-end bandwidth service to support large-scale research.

ESnet, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network, developed the system in response to scientists who need to move large amounts of data at specific times. The system was initially developed to work within ESnet’s international network connecting national laboratories and universities.

“But for on-demand bandwidth service to truly work, you need to go end-to-end and not just serve one network,” said Chin Guok, an ESnet network engineer and principal investigator for the project. “In order to do this, you need to dynamically coordinate with the other networks to allocate the same resources at the same time.”

In April, ESnet and Internet2, a network consortium led by more than 200 U.S. universities working with industry and government, conducted a test of the system by configuring a path between an Internet2 test site in Indianapolis and an ESnet hub in Sunnyvale, Calif. A guaranteed bandwidth of 25 megabits/second (Mb/s) was requested, and the April 6 test delivered a maximum throughput of 30 Mb/s.

ESnet developed the base code which allows users to request dedicated bandwidth at a specified time between specified locations. The code also authenticates the requestor and ensures that the person is authorized to use the network service at the requested level.

While other organizations have demonstrated on-demand bandwidth service, it’s typically done as a demonstration, Guok said. The ESnet-Internet2 collaboration is the first step toward implementing a production service providing on-demand bandwidth.

“The test also helped us identify other issues, such as vendor implementations, which we need to address,” Guok said. “This is just a first step in the journey to production.”

In the past, it was possible to reserve bandwidth, Guok said, but this typically involved lots of phone calls and emails involving requests and specifications. Such a process could take days or weeks to complete. With the new system, the request can be completed in a matter of minutes.

“It’s a huge savings in both time and cost,” Guok said.

The challenges to providing dedicated, reserved bandwidth occur at multiple levels. First there is the issue of how to reserve network resources. This requires that traffic be isolated and the bandwidth guaranteed. Then, there is a need for authentication and authorization when the traffic crosses domains. Finally, “tunnels” need to be set up through each network and then stitched together between the various networks. This requires that the peering points be identified in advance.

The new system allows ESnet to engineer the network traffic, avoiding congested points. It also provides flexibility to meet user requirements. For example, videoconferencing may not require as much bandwidth as data transfer, but it does need lower latency and the system can build a path that is shorter.