“Dark Fiber” Enables Research to Create Tomorrow’s Internet

The Advanced Networking Initiative testbed is allowing researchers to develop radical new technologies for the next generation Internet.

Two light blue on black neural type networks, with the second more dense than the first.
Image courtesy of LBNL
Visual difference between conventional 10Gps and the ANI 100Gbps network: (right) “Early Universe” simulation, performed on NERSC supercomputer produced over 5 terabytes of data that was transferred to the SuperComputing 2011 exhibit floor in Seattle, Washington, in near real-time over ESnet's 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) network. For comparison, (left) a simulation using a 10 Gbps network connection was displayed on a complementary screen to show the difference in quality that an order of magnitude difference in bandwidth can make.

The Science

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI) has developed the first 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) production-ready science network, which includes a 100 Gbps experimental testbed and a national dark fiber testbed. These new optical technologies increase bandwidth ten times over existing fiber, and the ANI platform allows researchers from government institutions, universities and industry to use “dark fiber” testbeds to experiment with revolutionary network technologies at scale without interfering with conventional traffic on the internet.

The Impact

The ANI testbed is a unique national resource and user facility. So far, about 20 groups have taken advantage of ESnet’s 100 Gbps testbed to test technology from cyber security to traffic management and crash testing. These experiments will improve the efficiency and security with which we move the massive amounts of data generated by science and industry while also giving the U.S. telecommunications industry a competitive advantage.


The 100 Gbps dark fiber testbed provides a facility for researchers to address the challenges of deploying and operating high speed optical networks. This includes research into disruptive technologies and approaches that are not ready to mingle with production traffic. “Just because the network is 10 times faster does not mean the protocols and middleware will be 10 times faster,” said Brian Tierney of the Energy Science network (ESnet). Such discrepancies could create bottlenecks that slow down the network, frustrating fulfillment of its potential.  The testbed, which is open to industry, government labs and academia, allows a user project to be the only traffic on the testbed, enabling experiments in a truly controlled environment. One of the challenges in network research is repeatability, so giving a researcher complete control of a 100 Gbps testbed allows the experiment to be re-run multiple times, enabling them to adjust the experiment if needed, leading to more exact results. For the networking research community, there is no other test environment like this that provides researchers the ability to experiment with their ideas “at scale” on a national backbone. And none of the U.S. research groups in industry or academia could afford to build an environment like this on their own. Eric Dube, Senior Product Manager of Systems at Bay Microsystems, Inc., stated  “This is the first time Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) over distance has been proven to work at full bandwidth for 40 Gbps data rates. Gaining access to a 40 Gbps wide area optical circuit is very costly and had prohibited this kind of research in the past. Using the ANI testbed, we are now able to prove these concepts in a live network environment setting the stage for deploying scalable RDMA-enabled applications over 100G networks. This is especially important as more geographically dispersed data centers and science sites will require this type of bandwidth and capability.”


Brian L. Tierney Group Lead, Advanced Technologies


Office of Science Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program


“Protocols for Wide-Area Data-Intensive Applications — Design and Performance Issues” by Yufei Ren, Tan Li, Dantong Yu, Shudong Jin, Thomas Robertazzi, Eric Pouyoul and Brian Tierney, will be presented at SC12 in Salt Lake City.

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Highlight Categories

Program: ASCR

Performer: DOE Laboratory , SC User Facilities , ASCR User Facilities , ESnet

Additional: Technology Impact