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A Network For Wild Experimentation

By Technology Review

July 27, 2011

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Internet2 and the Energy Sciences Network (ESNet) have built an experimental networking testbed using dormant dark fiber networking resources.

The researchers used the testbed to create two prototype networks, one of which transfers data at 100 Gbps, while the other is intended for riskier experiments into network architecture. The researchers want to find protocols that transfer data faster, test new network hardware, and experiment with difficult security problems.

The dark fiber testbed also provides a way to test new hardware, such as optical routers, which combine optical and electronic components. "When you want to do something disruptive, when you want to try something really radical, you can't do that on a network that people are trying to actually use," says Internet2's Robert Vietzke.

ESNet's Steve Cotter says the new networks also "open up a whole new area of research" into the power efficiency of network devices. Swinburne University of Technology's Lachlan Andrew says the 100 Gbps network "will be very useful for people testing end-to-end 'application layer' protocols," especially for researchers who want to test software in high-bandwidth conditions.

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