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OptIPuter Team Uses Glimmerglass Intelligent Optical Switch to Manage Huge Datasets and Real-Time Data Flows

intelligent optical switch

Glimmerglass Intelligent Optical Switch offers optical to optical switching 

San Diego, CA, November 4, 2005 -- Both major partners in the National Science Foundation-funded OptIPuter project -- UCSD and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) -- now use Glimmerglass optical switches, after the UCSD Division of Calit2 went looking for a Layer 1 optical switch that could automatically redirect a light path under automated control.

The OptIPuter team connects its campus and partner networks using a 10-Gigabit per second optical fiber backbone network.  This backbone also links into the National LambdaRail (NLR).  The UIC facility uses a Glimmerglass optical switch as part of its lambda network and the UCSD team wanted to mirror those capabilities within its own data operations center. Specifically the OptIPuter team at UCSD planned to use its optical switch to implement and test network conditions in an extremely high bandwidth, high performance environment.
UCSD team leader and Calit2 chief infrastructure officer Greg Hidley evaluated two market-leading optical switches against a set of hardware, performance, software and customer support requirements.  The team required continuous uptime, the ability to upgrade to a 128x128 port configuration, less than 100 ms switching time with a maximum insertion loss of less than 3 dB.  Additionally, the team required a user-friendly switch control interface with remote access capabilities and the ability to monitor signal levels on fibers directly from the control interface.  Exceptional customer support and cost were also factors.  UCSD selected the Glimmerglass optical switch based on proven performance in all these areas.
The Glimmerglass Intelligent Optical Switch was implemented in the OptIPuter test-bed in late 2004 and has performed superbly since implementation.  The switch is located in OptIPuter’s Node M on the UCSD campus. This central location houses all campus fiber connections, transmitting data between supercomputers and driving computing clusters, large tile walls (arrays of high-resolution computer displays), and other elements of the OptIPuter project.  
“Anything moving across campus goes through the Glimmerglass switch,” said Andrew Chien, System Software Architect of OptIPuter.  “We are exchanging huge datasets, topology maps, brain scans and more with centers like Scripps, NASA and NCMIR; moving terabytes of data to our storage server.  We are streaming data at tens of gigabits per second simultaneously in many directions through the Glimmerglass switch.”

Greg Hidley

Calit2 chief infrastructure officer Greg Hidley

According to Hidley, the real value of the Glimmerglass optical switch is not its ability to keep the network running, but its ability to help the team 'break' the network in a number of ways and then instantly reconfigure the network to one or more known configurations.
“It works,” said Hidley.  “It allows us to control extremely large, extremely complex networks and make changes automatically -- not manually -- and preconfigure many different network architectures which can be loaded on demand.  It is an incredible time-saver.  In contrast, if you were to contact an SBC or AT&T or Level 3 provider and ask them to provision a T3 or gigabit Ethernet network, it would take months. ”
“We can do in ten seconds what it would take a corporate carrier months to do,” he added.  The UCSD team uses the switch to allocate light paths dynamically and control them using a web interface, or applications can control them directly using the OptIPuter project’s Distributed Virtual Computer software. “We don’t have to send a person out to a patch panel each time we want to make a change or route around something,” said Hidley. “We never have to touch the fibers.” 
After running many tests with multiple configurations, the OptIPuter team has found the speed and precision of automatic re-configuration particularly useful when re-establishing networks locally and nationally.

Andrew Chin

OptIPuter researcher Andrew Chien

“Explosive growth in bandwidth is the big change,” said Chien, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering in the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering. “The OptIPuter paradigm is about gigabits of dedicated bandwidth versus the traditional shared network view. This capability enables real science and radical new styles of use. For example, we have a 55-tile display wall with 100 million pixels, which we use to display extremely large datasets coming in over the network in real time. Here in San Diego, using OptIPuter, we can display data from Amsterdam faster than you can read it off your local hard disk.”
“We anticipate having multiple 10 GigE channels coming in soon and we intend to fill up the Glimmerglass switch,” he said. “These dramatic increases in dedicated bandwidth allow us to make major advances in science that ultimately are to the benefit of mankind.”

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National Science Foundation