Although officially established in 1986, ESnet did not formally begin network operations until 1988, as the Department of Energy’s Magnetic Fusion Energy Network (MFEnet, affectionately known as MuffyNet) and High Energy Physics Network (HEPnet) were gradually melded into a single entity.
In January 1988, then-ESnet head Jim Leighton laid out the plans for the new network in the Buffer, the monthly user newsletter for the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computing Center (known today as NERSC). At the time, ESnet was managed by the Networking and Engineering Group at the center.
After giving some background on the organization of ESnet, Leighton wrote “Now you are probably saying to yourself that this really is very exciting stuff, but it would be even more exciting if we knew when we could expect to see something running. Well, I just happen to be ready to outline our schedule for the next two years:
“January 1988: We believe that the new approach ESnet is taking will require much closer coordination with people responsible for the local area networking at each site. Accordingly, we are planning to convene a new committee in January, with sites involved in Phase I (see below) of ESnet deployment (“Boy, a new committee, that is exciting!” you are probably saying to yourself.). Additional site members will be added to the committee as the implementation continues.
“Phase 0 (January-March 1988): We expect to bring up all the sites on the X.25 backbone, including Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), CERN, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL), Florida State University (FSU), Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Additional foreign sites will be added during the year.
“Demonstration (March 1988): During the MFESIG meeting to be held at LBL, we expect to demonstrate some ‘beta release’ capabilities of ESnet.
“Phase I (June-September 1988): We will begin deploying and installing a terrestrial 56-K bits per second backbone for ESnet. Sites affected include Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FSU, GA Technologies, Los Alamos National Laboratory, LBL, MFECC, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and the University of Texas at Austin. No sites will be disconnected from MFEnet during this phase.
“Phase II (October-December 1988): We will complete the ESnet backbone and connect additional sites to the backbone. This phase will require some sites to be disconnected from MFEnet. The MFEnet to ESnet transition gateway must be installed during this phase. Additional sites affected include CEBAF, FNAL, MIT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and UCLA.
“Phase III (Calendar Year 1989): We will continue to switch major hub sites from MFEnet to MFEnet II, along with all secondary sites connected through those hub sites.”
Read more from the Buffer about the 1988 ESnet launch.