Big news? Not exactly. Since mid-2002, Argonne's been using Ciena's Online Metro DWDM gear to provide OC48 and OC192 links among several research labs and grid computing networks. And Ciena won't disclose the terms of its arrangement at Argonne, so it's not clear how much money is changing hands.
The present deployment represents about half of what the final network will look like, which is set for completion by year's end. "Grid" is the key word here. Indeed, the most impressive thing about this announcement may be that it makes official Ciena's interest in grid computing, which promises to tie together enormous resources of computing, networking, and online content (see Watch for the Grid and Grid Networking).
The list of Argonne's Ciena-connected sites certainly contains some of the most "happening" spots in grid research today. Here's a sampling:
- Teragrid: This is billed as one of the world's most significant grid computing projects. Its Website describes it as a "a multi-year effort to build and deploy the world's largest, fastest, distributed infrastructure for open scientific research." Spearheaded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Teragrid personnel boasted back in March 2003 that they'd created the "world's fastest" (40 Gbit/s) data network using gear from Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) and services from Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q). Ciena's apparently been part of things, too.
- National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA): This NSF offshoot is dedicated to building hardware, software, and tools for grid computing and is helping to build the Teragrid.
- State of Illinois I-Wire Project: This is the Illinois Wired/Wireless Infrastructure for Research and Education (I-WIRE), an effort to create a dark-fiber network to link the Argonne Lab, NCSA, the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), and Chicago's Northwestern University, among others. ONI Systems was part of this effort prior to its purchase by Ciena.
- Starlight: EVL, ANL, NU, and I-WIRE are all in on this project to develop a high-speed optical network for supercomputing and grid applications. This is the project for which Calient Networks Inc. was picked earlier this year (see Calient Picked for OptIPuter). Separately, Calient paid its way into a U.S. Department of Defense lab for testing at around the same time (see Calient Touts Government Test).
"I think this reflects a larger trend. Many equipment manufacturers are discovering the only people who need DWDM systems are the [research] community," writes Bill St-Arnaud, senior director of advanced networks at Canarie Inc., an advanced Internet development network based in Canada, which participates in the Teragrid and other projects. "The carriers have tons of capacity and so there have been very little sales of DWDM gear to this market."
But despite the potential for future contracts in interesting new markets, some remain unfazed by today's announcement. "I'm not really impressed with this at all," says Sam Greenholtz of Telecom Pragmatics Inc. "I'm not saying the labs take just anyone, but it's not that difficult to fill out the forms and pony up the equipment." There's no evidence, he says, that Ciena was responding to any kind of RFP for the work. What's more, there may not be much money involved.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading