Why are we reincarnating OSCARS?

OSCARS ESnet traffic patterns

Some recent articles on new developments in virtual circuits such as Fenius and cloud computing with Google, Internet2’s announcements of its ION service, and the recently funded DYNES proposal are all powered by OSCARS or On Demand Secure Circuits and Reservation System, a software engine developed with DOE funding. This open-source software engine provides us with the capability of building a network with highly dynamic, traffic-engineered flows that meet the research data transport needs of scientists. The current deployed release, 0.5.2, has been deployed as a production service within ESnet for the past 3 years. We are currently enhancing 0.5.3 and plan to release the software in the Q4, 2010 time frame.

In the course of running this software as a production service and interacting with scientists, network researchers, and standards community at OGF, we realized we had to redesign the software architecture to be a much more robust and extensible platform. We wanted to be able to easily add new features to the OSCARS platform that would cater to a variety of network engineers and researchers.  With this in mind, the re-architectured OSCARS is planned as release version 0.6. Like any successful product, transitioning from a deployed release to a new one involves thorny issues like backward compatibility and feature parity. Hence, the current balancing act of taking something that is quite good and proven (0.5.2), but making it even better a.k.a. 0.6.

Here are four good reasons why OSCARS 0.6 is the way to go:

1. It can meet production requirements: The modular architecture enables features to be added through the use of distinct modules. This allows specific deployment requirements to be easily integrated into the service. For example, if it is necessary to support a federated AA implementation, the AA modules can be replaced with ones that are compliant with that AA framework (e.g. Shibboleth).  Another example would be High Availability (HA). The 0.6 architecture helps provide HA on a component basis, ensuring that the critical components do not fail.

2. It provides new complex features: As end-sites and their operators become comfortable with point to point provisioning of virtual circuits, we are getting increased requests for complex feature enhancements. The OSCARS 0.5 software architecture is not especially suitable for new features like multi-point circuits and/or multi-layer provisioning. But these new feature requests increase the urgency of moving to the 0.6 release that has been designed with such enhancements in mind. Moreover, the multi-layer ARCHSTONE research project funded by DOE will use 0.6 as the base research platform.

3. Research/GENI and other testbeds: The research community is a major constituent for OSCARS and its continuing development. This community is now conducting experiments on real infrastructure testbeds like the ANI and GENI. To really leverage the power of those testbeds, the research community wants to leverage the OSCARS software base/framework, while researching/innovating on certain algorithms and testing them. OSCARS 0.6 platform’s modular architecture enables the researcher to replace any component with new algorithmic research module. For example, with the new PCE engine re-design, one can write a flexible workflow of custom PCE’s. This flexibility does not exist with the purpose-built, but monolithic architecture of the OSCARS 0.5 codebase.

4. NSI Protocol/Standards: As the European and Asian research and education communities move towards interoperability with the US, it is important to leverage a common understanding brought through via standards. The NSI protocol standardization being discussed in the OGF NSI working group (http://ogf.org/gf/group_info/view.php?group=nsi-wg) needs to be implemented by the network middleware open source community like OSCARS. We feel that the 0.6 is the right platform to upgrade to the standard NSI protocol whenever it is ready.

At ESnet, we invest considerable time in new technology development, but balance this with our operational responsibilities. We invite the community to join in developing OSCARS 0.6, which has greatly improved capabilities over OSCARS 0.5.2. With your participation in the development process, we can accelerate the 0.6 architected software to production-quality as soon as possible.  If this excites you, we welcome you to contribute to the next stage of the OSCARS open source project.

–Chin Guok