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MREN: Building next-gen networks for data intensive science

Each year, with its international, national and regional partners, the Metropolitan Research and Education Network (MREN) collaborates with SCinet to create a national testbed with international extensions for the annual ACM/IEEE International Supercomputing Conference (SC21) for high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis.

In 2021, SC21 as a hybrid conference, took place in St. Louis, Mo. SCinet, MREN, and its research partners designed, implemented, and operated an international testbed to showcase demonstrations and experiments focused on data-intensive science applications and technologies.

Increasingly, science research requires gathering, analyzing, and transporting extremely large volumes of data, including high capacity single end-to-end multi-100 Gbps data flows that are transported among sensor sites, instruments, analytic sites, HPC centers, and data repositories. Consequently, a key theme was exploring and demonstrating WAN services beyond 100 Gbps – including 400 Gbps, 800 Gbps, and Tbps paths.

The SCinet WAN testbed included: 2*400 Gbps paths (800 Gbps) between the Joint Big Data Testbed Facility in McLean, Va., to the StarLight International/National Communications Exchange in Chicago, Ill.; 2*600 Gbps (1.2 Tbps) between the StarLight Facility and the SC21 venue in St. Louis; 4*100 Gbps from Canada to the StarLight Facility; 2*100 Gbps from CENIC to the StarLight Facility; and 4*100 Gbps from CENIC to the SC21 venue.

With its research partners, MREN used this testbed to successfully stage 24 large scale demonstrations. Techniques demonstrated included innovative multi-100 Gbps path services based on Software Defined Networking (SDN), Software Defined Exchanges (SDXs), Data Transfer Nodes (DTNs), Network Services Interface (NSI), transport protocols, measurements, P4 data plane programming, and dynamic L2 and L1 provisioning.

Demonstrations included advanced services for Petascale science; the dynamic capabilities of the NSF StarLight International Software Defined Exchange (SDX); programmable dynamic WAN networking; the Global Research Platform; advanced services based on AI/ML/DL optimization techniques for High Energy Physics, specifically, the Large Hadron Collider Open Network Environment; DTN-as-a-Service; multi-100 Gbps WAN Disk-to-Disk transfers across WANs; and dynamic systems provisioning across WANs.

Also in 2021, MREN supported the design and implementation of an international testbed in 2021 for Data Mover Challenge hosted by the Supercomputing Asia Conference 2022.

The Metropolitan Research and Education Network (MREN) is an advanced, high-performance, regional network supporting organizations in seven states in the upper Midwest. MREN’s primary focus is on providing advanced digital communications for leading-edge research and educational applications, primarily communication services for data intensive science. MREN is a founding member of the NSF -supported Pacific Research Platform initiative (PRP), developing a regional Science DMZ that extends from the west coast to the StarLight facility. MREN is also creating a regional MREN Research Platform (MRP) and participating in developing a National Research Platform (NRP).