AAC Digest

SDN Testbeds and Science DMZ Sandboxes: planning the future network

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AARNet Australia-wide SDN Testbed

Pushing technological boundaries and exploring what the future network might look like has been a focus of AARNet’s activities since the early days of rolling out the Internet in Australia.

SDN Testbed

Currently, we’re exploring the area of Software Defined Networking (SDN). SDN is an emerging new technology, focused on teasing apart the data forwarding function of a piece of network equipment from its path calculation function, taking advantage of commodity network hardware for the former and cheap virtualised compute for the latter. The aim is to provide greater network flexibility at a lower cost.

We’re creating an SDN Testbed in partnership with CSIRO and nine universities to provide researchers with the ability to test and develop new SDN capabilities. Two of the four switches comprising the core of the AARNet SDN Testbed have been deployed in Sydney and Melbourne, with the remaining switches in Perth and Seattle to be added in coming weeks. The first two researcher groups have been connected, at UNSW and CSIRO. Work has commenced on connecting the remaining eight universities: Swinburne, RMIT, UTS, Adelaide, Macquarie, UQ, Wollongong and ANU. Discussions are also underway regarding international peering with similar testbeds with Internet2 and ESnet in the USA.

Science DMZ sandboxes

We’re also developing a Science DMZ offering as part of a larger focus on “Data Movement” in the eResearch environment. Science DMZ is a network architecture, originally developed by ESnet in the USA, aimed at accelerating the transfer of big datasets into and out of campus networks. AARNet engineers are implementing a pair of “sandbox” Science DMZ deployments, simulating the connections deployed at Research Data Services (RDS) Nodes so as to enable test and development work. A set of performance measurement appliances is also being developed and tested, based on the open-source PerfSonar software toolkit. This will provide institutions with the ability to identify and localise any performance issues relating to big data transfers.

Enabling researchers to move data faster

For the eResearch Australasia 2015 Conference program we convened a Data Movement stream, as part of an initiative raising the “bar of expectations” so that researchers both demand and expect more from their IT infrastructure in terms of its ability to gain access to and move very large quantities of data.

Our goal with these activities is to continuously advance the networking and data communications services AARNet provides as well as to learn from and share expertise with the greater research community.


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