Thursday, January 26, 2012

Data Intensive Science in a Carbon Constrained World with Software Defined Networks

[I had the honor of being invited to give the keynote at the recent Internet 2 Joint Techs workshop.  I am very excited to see the new direction of Joint Techs to spend one day focusing on a single topic – as an experimental “Call for Action.”
 This is especially timely as the NSF is once again exploring the idea to fund a new type of “connections” program to address many of the campus connectivity issues with respect to providing high bandwidth connections to researchers.  One of the parameters they may want to explore is “green” or “energy efficient” network solutions.

As I mentioned in my talk we need to rethink our campus network architectures.  One of the factors is that driving this rethink is the need to adapt to a much warmer planet and what that implies in terms of the reliability and high cost of energy.  Disaster recovery planning does not only mean planning for earthquakes and fires, but also the consequences of living in a much warmer planet where there are significant droughts and floods.

Overall IT electricity consumption  is projected to grow to much as 40% of all electrical consumption by 2030, according to the IEA. The R&E sector is one of the biggest consumers of that IT electrical consumption. In addition to starting to planning about climate change impacts on R&E networks, we are facing a deluge of new data and computation demands which is furthering putting pressure on the human resources and energy demands of many campuses.    Already the high cost of energy, and its reliability are driving many institutions to explore outsourcing many compute and network services. A good example is “Holyoke project” where 5 universities in Boston are partnering to build a green datacenter 90 miles of Boston to collocate their computing resources.

Building these types of condominium data centers will also require condominium networks  so that the institutions can connect to their appropriate resources.  Software defined networks (SDN) such as OpenFlow (and earlier experimental variants like UCLP) deployed by NRENs will allow these institutions to extend their LANs past their physical presence of the campus to remote facilities such as condominium data centers, commercial clouds, etc.  SDN will also deployment of wide area federated wireless solutions integrating campus WiFi. A good example of the power of SDN is the recent demo carried out by the Greenstar network to use OpenFlow to move virtual machines from Europe to North America as part of their follow the wind/follow the sun green cloud /network research.

My presentation at Internet 2 Joint Techs is available at:

NSF possible solicitation

R&E Network and Green Internet Consultant.

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