Dragon Breathes New Life Into Internet2
The successful deployment of dynamic circuit networking puts to rest the group's Hybrid Optical and Packet Infrastructure (HOPI) testbed, which had helped integrate its IP network with dynamic circuit technologies.
The hybrid network takes advantage of control plane technology developed by the Dragon (Dynamic Resource Allocation via GMPLS Optical Networks) project.
Dragon's control plane software enables users of the Internet2 network to dynamically provision optical circuits of up to 10 Gbit/s, which allows researchers to share large amounts of data through dedicated connections.
"This really helps in two different kinds of situations: when you have very large data flows; and when you need deterministic QOS [quality of service]," says Internet2 CTO Rick Summerhill.
"This allows you to take large data flows off the normal IP network. If the data flow is a Gig, you've filled up the backbone," Summerhill says. "But if you can take most of that and shunt it off to a circuit, that won't interfere with normal data flows."
Internet2's network is equipped with Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) equipment, which was chosen in part due to its cooperation in the development of the Dragon project. The company's CoreDirector serves as "the core of the control plane," according to Jeff Verrant, director of research initiatives at Ciena. (See Internet2 Completes 100-Gbit/s Network and MAX selects Ciena.)
In addition to enabling dynamic provisioning across the Internet2 network, the consortium has also widened its reach by extending the control plane software across network domains. A working group created by Dante , Internet2, Canarie Inc. , and ESnet -- affectionately known as "DICE" -- developed an Inter-Domain Controller protocol that will allow networks to work together by seamlessly setting up dynamic circuits.
"We're creating a new capability here," says Jerry Sobieski, director of research initiatives for the Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX) research consortium, one of the principal drivers of the Dragon project. "We're not just setting up circuits, but creating a whole new network environment. This allows us to bend and flex networks at will."
While the dynamic circuit network is ideal for the amount of dedicated capacity that is needed by some research projects, participants see very few applications in commercial networks so far. This could change, though, as bandwidth demands escalate.
"Most flows in commercial networks are still very small," says Internet2's Summerhill, "but coming applications will demand increased flow sizes and increased QOS."
Possible commercial applications for dynamic optical circuits could include large data backups between financial institutions or disaster recovery, according to Sobieski. But the group is open to suggestions.
"We want to make this available to a variety of different applications," Summerhill says. "One of the things we're really looking forward to is having people find innovative ways to use this."
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading