OSCARS 0.6 hits the limelight

At the recent Supercomputing11 conference, the bubbly was flowing. ESnet launched its ANI 100 gigabit-per-second network, and marked a quarter century of networking for DOE science. That big news may have overshadowed another milestone—SC11 was the first time OSCARS 0.6 was publicly demonstrated in a production environment. Now we’d like to give OSCARS its due.

OSCARS, or On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System, allows users to set up virtual circuits on demand to reserve bandwidth, streamlining the transfer of massive data sets across multiple network domains. OSCARS originated at ESnet, but we open-sourced it to the community long ago. Last spring the more modular OSCARS version 0.6 was released for testers and early adopters.

Other famous OSCARS

The performance of OSCARS 0.6 at SC11 showed us that we met our design goal of creating a flexible and modular framework. This was reflected in the demos, which were easy for folks to customize according to their needs. In the demo, “Enabling Large Scale Science using Inter-domain Circuits over OpenFlow” Tom Lehman of ISI used OSCARS to provide the functionality to control Openflow switches. Thanks to the flexibility to customize software built into OSCARS 0.6, ESnet’s Eric Pouyol was able to produce a variation of that application, customizing OSCARS 0.6 for resource brokering. OSCARS also played a part in the successful demonstration of Internet2’s Dynamic Network System (DYNES).The goal of DYNES is to work with regional networks and campuses, using OSCARS to schedule and support scientific data flows from the LHC, and other data intensive science programs such as LIGO, Virtual Observatory, and other large-scale sky surveys.

Most of the 100 Gbps demos at SC were supported by both the ANI 100 Gbps network and the 100 Gbps SCinet showfloor network. OSCARS 0.6 was used to schedule all eight of the demos using the 100 Gbps ANI network, which included complex visualizations of climate models, the Large Hadron Collider and the VERY early history—13.5 billion years ago, or 100 billion in dog years— of the Universe. OSCARS also controlled the approximately 100 different connections at SCInet, as well as connecting to three other OSCARS instances on the show floor.

OSCAR the Grouch

We used OSCARS 0.6 to provision the network, scheduling user time-slices of the 100 gigabit-per-second ANI and SCinet network, 24 hours a day, over the period of a week so they could test the demos in advance without having to get up at 3:00 a.m. to do it.

OSCARS 0.6 ended up making certain network engineers’ lives much easier. According to my colleague Evangelos Chaniatakis a.k.a. Vangelis, who was involved in the gritty details of setting up OSCARS 0.6 at the show, his team was required to make last-minute changes to the pre-existing network framework to work with the new hardware but didn’t receive the equipment until the week before the conference. The modularity ESnet built into OSCARS 0.6 helped the team get the network working at short notice.

 Less of a Software, More of a Service

Every year the number of reservations and circuits at SC continues to grow. The SC11 network required roughly twice the number of VLANs over the previous year. While the bandwidth wasn’t much bigger, and there were approximately the same number of customers, this year’s users definitely had more requirements. “On the whole OSCARS 0.6 was really stable.” Vangelis reports. “It worked fine.”  But the lessons learned at SC11 made us rethink the OSCARS 0.6 service module and requirements. In the near future, we intend to tweak OSCARS 0.6 to provide users more flexibility, making it less of a software and more of a service.