How the World’s Fastest Science Network Was Built

Created in 1986, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) is a high-performance network built to support unclassified science research. ESnet connects more than 40 DOE research sites—including the entire National Laboratory system, supercomputing facilities and major scientific instruments—as well as hundreds of other science networks around the world and the Internet.

Funded by DOE’s Office of Science and managed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), ESnet moves about 51  petabytes of scientific data every month. This is a 13-step guide about how ESnet has evolved over 30 years.

Step 1: When fusion energy scientists inherit a cast-off supercomputer, add 4 dialup modems so the people at the Princeton lab can log in. (1975)


Step 2: When landlines prove too unreliable, upgrade to satellites! Data screams through space. (1981)


Step 3: Whose network is best? High Energy Physics (HEPnet)? Fusion Physics (MFEnet)?  Why argue? Merge them into one-Energy Sciences Network (ESnet)-run by the Department of Energy!  Go ESnet! (1986)


Step 4: Make it even faster with DUAL Satellite links! We’re talking 56 kilobits per second! Except for the Princeton fusion scientists – they get 112 Kbps! (1987)


Step 5:  Whoa, when an upgrade to 1.5 MEGAbits per second isn’t enough, add ATM (not the money machine, but Asynchronous Transfer Mode) to get more bang for your buck. (1995)


Step 6: Duty now for the future—roll out the very first IPv6 address to ensure there will be enough Internet addresses for decades to come. (2000)


Step 7: Crank up the fastest links in the network to 10 GIGAbits per second—16 times faster than the old gear—a two-generation leap in network upgrades at one time. (2003)


Step 8: Work with other networks to develop really cool tools, like the perfSONAR toolkit for measuring and improving end-to-end network performance and OSCARS (On-Demand Secure Circuit and Advance Reservation), so you can reserve a high-speed, end-to-end connection to make sure your data is delivered on time. (2006)


Step 9: Why just rent fiber? Pick up your own dark fiber network at a bargain price for future expansion. In the meantime, boost your bandwidth to 100G for everyone. (2012)


Step 10: Here’s a cool idea, come up with a new network design so that scientists moving REALLY BIG DATASETS can safely avoid institutional firewalls, call it the Science DMZ, and get research moving faster at universities around the country. (2012)



Step 11: We’re all in this science thing together, so let’s build faster ties to Europe. ESnet adds three 100G lines (and a backup 40G link) to connect researchers in the U.S. and Europe. (2014)


Step 12: 100G is fast, but it’s time to get ready for 400G. To pave the way, ESnet installs a production 400G network between facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Calif., and even provides a 400G testbed so network engineers can get up to speed on the technology. (2015)


Step 13: Celebrate 30 years as a research and education network leader, but keep looking forward to the next level. (2016)


Aug. 21 Deadline to Submit Papers for SCinet’s INDIS Workshop at SC16

Sunday, Aug. 21, is the deadline for submitting papers for the 3rd International Workshop on Innovating the Network for Data Intensive Science (INDIS), which will be held Sunday, Nov. 13, in conjunction with SC16 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The workshop invites papers that propose new and novel techniques regarding capacity and functionality of networks, its control and its architecture to be demonstrated at current and future supercomputing conferences. We invite full original papers to be submitted via the FGCS submission system (for more detailed information visit the submit page.

INDIS also serves as a platform for participants in SCinet to present experimental papers on their latest designs and solutions. SCinet is the high-speed network engine of the SC conference.

For complete information, including links to papers from the 2015 INDIS workshop, go to:

For 10 Years, ESnet has Helped Develop, Deploy perfSONAR

perfSONARv2Since it was first deployed as a prototype in December 2005, the perfSONAR toolkit has provided the research and education networking community with tools for end-to-end monitoring and troubleshooting of multi-domain network performance. And over the years, this ability to diagnose network problems has become increasingly important as research is increasingly collaborative and dependent on sharing large data sets.

Currently a joint effort between ESnet, Internet2, Indiana University and GEANT, the pan-European research network, perfSONAR is now deployed at more than 1,700 public sites around the world, as well as at many private sites. About 40 percent of the public sites are at educational institutions. Among the major users is the Large Hadron Collider collaboration with users at hundreds of institutions.

“Although it started out with just one of two metrics of network performance, it’s now a menagerie of tools in one easy-to-install package with not a lot of steps required to install and configure,” said Jason Zurawski of ESnet’s Science Engagement Team. “At its core, perfSONAR is software to fix your network, whether it’s broken or improperly tuned. We find that many new users are tired of poor performance and want to fix it, or they are looking to upgrade their network and want to benchmark the current system to document improvement.”

Read the full story.

ESnet_30year_r3_Final(Editor’s note: This is the first of a series highlighting ESnet’s contributions to the global networking community as ESnet marks its 30th anniversary.)