SCinet 2018: A High-Capacity Network for HPC Unveiled in Dallas

November 8, 2018

Contact: Kathy Kincade,, +1 510 495 2124

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Jason Zurawski, SCinet 2018 Chair

ESnet staff are once again contributing their expertise to build and operate SCinet, one of the most powerful and advanced networks in the world that is created annually to bring high-speed networking capabilities to the Supercomputing Conference.

For one week each year, SCinet brings to life a very high-capacity network that serves as the platform for exhibitors to demonstrate the advanced computing resources of their home institutions and elsewhere by supporting a variety of bandwidth-driven applications, including supercomputing and cloud computing. SCinet takes one year to plan and culminates in a weeks-long, high-intensity installation.

“Our adage is it takes a year to design SCinet, a month to build it, a week to operate it, and a day to tear it all down,” said Jason Zurawski, a science engagement engineer at ESnet and this year’s SCinet chair – the first from Berkeley Lab since 2000.

This year, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas, where SC18 is being held, offered some unique challenges for the SCinet installation – notably, no wide area network capabilities. So starting in 2016, the SCinet team began building its own fiber infrastructure in downtown Dallas. This included installing over two miles of fiber across the city to connect the convention center with one of the local telcos, a project that was completed in late October of this year. SCinet is now able to link up to ESnet, Internet2, Century Link, Zavo and the regional Lonestar Education and Research Network (LEARN) in Texas, as well as all the regional providers, Zurawski noted.

With this improved infrastructure in place, SCinet will deliver more than 4 terabits per second of network capacity to a million square feet of exhibit space during SC18, providing critical support for high performance computing demos and demonstrations of new technology, such as the Software-defined Network for End-to-end Networked Science at Exascale (SENSE) research project. In addition, when the conference ends, the fiber will remain in place for future use by the city of Dallas and its millions of visitors.

Volunteers Make All the Difference

Berkeley Lab staff have long played key roles in the volunteer-driven SCinet, and this year is no different, with a dozen staff members from ESnet, NERSC and the IT division participating. They join some 220+ dedicated individuals from 85 organizations who contribute their time and energy in designing and creating the network. In addition, 40 vendors have donated $52 million in services, software, equipment and hardware that is being used to build SCinet.

“We couldn’t do this without the dedication of the organization and the 225 volunteers, all the countless hours they have put into this,” Zurawski said. “All these people are involved in this enterprise, whether they are remote, helping us get the wide-area capabilities set up, or they are onsite in Dallas with us.”

In addition, for the fourth year in a row, SCinet once again co-sponsored the Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program, with five women IT professionals being selected to participate in this inclusivity program at SC18. Founded in 2015 to further expand the diversity of the SCinet volunteer staff and provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking, WINS is a collaboration between the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), ESnet and the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER). ESnet’s Kate Mace is the lead for the SC18 WINS program, while Eli Dart was part of this year’s WINS review committee.