Shaping the priorities of Internet2

Its new network operations manager is excited about Dynamic Circuit Network, multicast and IPv6.

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The IP network is really an augmentation of what was available three years ago. We've added a Commodity Peering Service as a separable feature. It's an opt-in mechanism whereby we peer with content and ISPs and our customers receive those routes over their high-speed circuits into the Internet2 network cloud.

It's obviously a cost-savings mechanism for our members and enhances network performance for users, but we also see it as mechanism to help push some advanced services toward the commercial world. Most of our members have a well-built infrastructure that supports IPv4/IPv6 multicast and IPv6 unicast. We have a large user base that's of interest to content providers. We want to partner with commercial networks and collaborate on bringing those services into the light. If a large content provider were to start operating a multicast version of a video delivery technology that would be a big win for everyone. It saves bandwidth and uses the network in a much more efficient manner.

You'll also be shaping the priorities for the NOC. What will be say, your top three priorities out of the chute?

The first priority is to maintain the network in a manner that's consistent with our members' needs and expectations, which means supporting top quality service, reliability and performance at all times.

In addition, I plan to start focusing more resources on the operational issues that will be raised when you start handing off some control of the network to your users. The Dynamic Circuit Network in the future will allow users to auto-provision circuits from a Web-based interface, which in turn means we need to be ready to accommodate unanticipated changes to the network.

Also, since the dynamic optical paths will cross networks beyond the Internet2 network, there are a lot of questions to be answered, like: Which network provider has ownership of troubleshooting a failed circuit? How do those failures become detected? And how do you start troubleshooting?

The beauty of running a research network is that we are pioneering these techniques with our collaborators world-wide and we believe these methodologies will help inform commercial Internet providers in the future as they adopt similar technologies and architectures.

Lastly, I hope to immediately begin re-evaluating the way we communicate information about the network to our membership base. When we started operating the network in 1998, none of the recent dynamic web technologies or RSS feeds existed or were widely supported. Now that these technologies are more mature, we want to take a look at how we can more effectively publish information and how to make information easier, more targeted and more useful to our members.

What sort of technologies will you get to "play" with that you wouldn't on a more mainstream corporate or university network?

Multicast and IPv6 come to mind when comparing the research and education space to the corporate environment, as these are both technologies that are absolutely necessary for the scalability of a network. As IPv4 address space becomes depleted, and as users start utilising more bandwidth-intensive applications from increasingly smaller and numerous devices, research and education network operators are in a good position to push deployment deeper into their campuses. The recent explosion in smartphone sales is a perfect example of the changing environment that research and education operators need to face at scales beyond what you would normally see on a corporate campus environment.

The Internet2 Dynamic Circuit Network we believe will be the next big disruptive technology both from a user-experience standpoint, and an operations standpoint. Creating dynamic network overlays is a relatively new area for the research and education community, but one that we need to support and continue to develop so researchers have the networking resources they require to keep innovating.

How would you describe your end users/customers?

Varied. There are a lot of students that put a fairly consistent demand on the network. But there's a smaller subset of researchers that really challenge us to grow the network and keep adding services. Most of them are fairly network-savvy and understand the capabilities and limitations of a high-speed national data network. We seek to collaborate with these researchers not only on meeting their current demands, but on trying to explore and shape what will be needed in the future.

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