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Bill St. Arnaud is a consultant and research engineer who works with clients around the world on a variety of subjects such as next generation Internet networks and developing practical solutions to reduce CO2 emissions such as free broadband and dynamic charging of eVehicles. He is an author of many papers and articles on these topics and is a frequent guest speaker. For more details on my research interests see

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Momentous changes for R&E networks world wide

[As I have blogged a couple of times in the past few weeks there is a growing momentum among the major R&E networks around the world to move to Open Lightpath Exchanges (OLEs).
OLEs will fundamentally change the future of R&E networking. At the spring Internet 2 meeting and follow up discussion at Terena meeting a joint statement has been drafted representing the views of many of the attendees on why OLEs are so critical to the future of R&E networking and represents significant opportunity for network innovation. Please see
OLEs will allow individual institutions, even researchers to directly peer with each other with no policy constraints and eliminate or minimize the need for a traditional “network” . Point to point links will still be required between exchange points and these will need to provisioned through a variety of means. But now it is the choice of the those who connect to the OLE, whether it is an institution, researcher or VO to compose their own network topology. As some of you may remember this was one of the original concepts of the CA*net 3/CA*net 4 architecture and drove the design of UCLP. I am pleased to see that Internet 2 OS3E ( is a similar strategy in this regard.
The driver for these developments of course is the demands of big science. But just as importantly OLEs will enable a new wave in network innovation with such new concepts as “software defined networks”, “Just in time networking”, “network as a service”, “pay as you go networking”, etc. OLE architecture is also a fundamental underpinning for zero carbon networks like Greenstar which is based on a hub (OLE) and spoke model.
No question OLEs may cause serious financial challenges for many regional networks and NRENs, as institutions and researchers need only pay for direct costs of interconnecting at an OLE as opposed to a bundled membership package. But I still believe there will be a critical role for R&E networks of all types. In the future the major focus of their revenue I believe will not be in provisioning pipes or IP networks, but in new network services such as national 5G wireless initiatives, content peering and distribution, outsourcing campus IT and managing science DMZ, energy CO2 reduction services in relocating data centers to remote locations, supporting continent wide or global cyber-infrastructure or eInfrastructure.
Special thanks to all those who participated in the Internet 2 and Terena discussions and in the drafting of this statement – BSA]
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