Dial Node M for Networking
Greg Hidley inspects optical router.
It’s shaping up to be a nexus of one of the most advanced computer
networks in the world – but “Node M” is located in UCSD’s
Central Utilities building that also houses lower-tech power-generation
facilities for the campus. There, UCSD has installed a revolutionary new
router to direct traffic over a high-speed optical networking testbed.
Together with a second router installed at the San Diego Supercomputer
Center (SDSC) in May to upgrade networking services for university users
at large, the new technology puts UCSD and the Jacobs School firmly on
the road to tomorrow’s Internet.
“These new routers are leading edge. One of them is at the heart
of the UCSD OptIPuter and the other will greatly increase the university's
connectivity to the outside world," says Larry Smarr, the Harry E.
Gruber Professor in Computer Science and Engineering. “UCSD’s
commitment to networking testbeds emphasizes that this is the university
to watch in telecommunications.”
Smarr and fellow Computer Science and Engineering professor Fran Berman
are leading the campus effort in optical networking, together with Elazar
Harel, UCSD’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Computing and Telecommunications
(ACT). In their roles as directors respectively of Cal-(IT)² and
SDSC, Smarr is leading the OptIPuter project, and Berman the TeraGrid.
Both projects are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and
are based on a Grid computing concept. The projects require the latest
in networking technology to carry data at super-high speeds between computing,
storage and visualization resources. On top of NSF funding, UCSD has committed
roughly $1.5 million to implement the networking upgrade.
Indeed, as part of the OptIPuter project, the campus itself is becomingan
experimental networking testbed. Researchers are linking nine different
locations on the La Jolla campus, including Engineering Building 1, SDSC,
and Cal-(IT)²’s Visualization Center at Scripps Institution
of Oceanography. This involved deploying new optical fiber, and repurposing
existing fiber, to connect each location to the rest through a Chiaro
Enstara router/switcher located at Node M in the Central Utilities building.
The Enstara routing platform is the first of its kind installed anywhere
by Texas-based Chiaro Networks. It is an optical core router that combines
the advantages of traditional routing along with leading-edge optical
switching. The Enstara will support the OptIPuter and other campus experimental
networks, and enable participating groups to experiment with various characteristics
of the network itself.
In early May, UCSD also purchased and installed a top-of-the-line enterprise
router from Juniper Networks. “By pooling campus resources, we were
able to invest in a system that is much more powerful than any of us could
have purchased on our own,” says Greg Hidley, director of engineering
services for the Jacobs School and Cal-(IT)². The new router is one of
very few on the market that can support native 10-gigabit Ethernet speeds.
As a result, the Juniper router will connect campus users efficiently
to state and national networks that are being upgraded.
UCSD’s investment in optical networking could also give the campus
a competitive edge for new NSF funding proposals. One of those would make
UCSD the official testbed of six leading universities that hope to build
an engineering research center devoted to optical networking. A decision
is expected later in 2003.