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GLIF heads north by north-west

7 October 2008 - The 8th Annual Global LambdaGrid Workshop was held on the 1st and 2nd of October 2008 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Centre in Seattle, USA. This was the second time that the global optical networking community has converged on the United States, and the event hosted by the Pacific Northwest Gigapop and the University of Washington attracted more than 130 participants from four continents. These included managers, engineers, researchers and developers from national research and education networks (NRENs), universities, research institutions and industry.

The keynote speech was provided by Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, who outlined how LambdaGrids had enabled e-science applications in the Northwestern United States and beyond. In particular, they facilitated the transfer of the huge volumes of data that are generated by high-energy physics, astronomy, oceanography and human genome analysis, which has made computational science an increasingly important discipline.

The opening plenary session also featured Tieniu Tan, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who presented how the CSTnet optical network had enabled e-science applications in China. There followed presentations from Harvey Newman (Caltech) on the Large Hadron Collider and the challenges of building the USLHCnet to facilitate large data transfers between CERN in Switzerland and the involved sites in the US, as well as from Michael Stanton (RNP) on SouthernLight, the first GLIF Open Lightpath Exchange (GOLE) to be established in South America. The session was rounded off with a demonstration of e-VLBI radio astronomy by Arpad Szomoru (JIVE project), and of the perfSONAR network monitoring tool by Thomas Tam (CANARIE).

The following afternoon and morning sessions were devoted to working group and task force meetings. There are three established GLIF working groups dealing with governance, research and applications, and technical issues, as well as several smaller task forces focusing on progressing specific technical challenges.

The former Technical and Control Plane Working Groups had agreed at the GLIF Winter Meeting in January 2008 to merge their respective activities as dynamic lightpaths have arrived and need further coordination. The combined group, led by Erik-Jan Bos (SURFnet, The Netherlands) and Gigi Karmous-Edwards (MCNC, USA) therefore met for the first time.

The group discussed developments in next-generation Ethernet technology, as well as a proposal to reserve a common range of VLAN identifiers in order to avoid conflicts between different networks. It also reviewed the current efforts to standardise automated circuit routing, set-up and teardown, which had been augmented by the work of the GNI Specifications, Service Level Agreement and Global Identifiers Task Forces. The ability to set-up dynamic lightpaths between GOLEs is an important next step, so it is essential that control plane developments support interoperability between different administrative domains.

The Research and Applications Working Group, led by Maxine Brown (University of Illinois at Chicago), identifies LambdaGrid research and application development. Presentations in this meeting emphasised that all science is global, and major collaborations are both developing infrastructure and using it. They also reflected that inter-domain lightpath setup and scheduling currently relies on people, and organisations like GLIF create communities that work together in a trusted manner.

Presentations covered the live high-definition video transmission of medical procedures (as trialled between hospitals in Norway and South Korea); super-high-definition video transmission of large-scale digital media (as demonstrated by CineGrid Consortium members); multiple high-definition video streams sent from multiple sites and accessible to other sites using optical multicast (demonstrated by the international HPDMnet Consortium); correlation of high volumes of radio telescope data acquired using VLBI techniques (SCARIe project); and, an international supercomputer grid between Japan and the Netherlands to calculate complex cosmological simulations (CosmoGrid project). Research to set up and control lightpaths to enable these, and other, applications over multiple domains was also described; including Phosphorus, AutoBAHN, LambdaStation, TeraPaths and Phoebus. In addition, CESNET (Czech Republic) provided an overview of its optical networking infrastructure and the many national and international applications it enables. Some of the research and applications discussed in this Working Group were demonstrated at the University of Washington on the Wednesday evening.

The closing plenary session saw presentations from Julio Ibarra (Florida International University) on Atlantic Wave, which is an alliance of optical exchange points in the Eastern US, from Natalia Bulashova (Russian Institute of Public Networks) on the MoscowLight GOLE and other optical networking initiatives in Russia, and from Lars Fischer (NORDUnet) on the NorthernLight optical network that serves the Nordic countries. This emphasised the ever-widening reach of the GLIF, and its ability to facilitate truly global collaboration.

The workshop wrapped up with a closing address from Kees Neggers (SURFnet), the GLIF Chair, during which he said:

"It was a real pleasure to see so many enthusiastic network and applications experts from every continent collaborating together in the meeting rooms and in the corridors. GLIF clearly has moved beyond merely promoting LambdaGrids, to actually facilitating real-world uses of the technology in support of medicine, science, education and the arts."

Finally, Daejeon (South Korea) was confirmed as the venue for 9th Annual Global LambdaGrid Workshop, which will be hosted by KISTI on 26-28 October 2009.

GLIF would like to express its thanks to the Pacific Northwest Gigapop and the University of Washington for its organisational and financial support of this event.

The proceedings of the workshop are available at

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