NOAA to get high-capacity research network

The technology will support climate research

Internet2, an advanced networking consortium, is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide a high-capacity network that will link climate researchers with new high-performance computing centers NOAA is establishing.

The network, called NWave, initially will consist of 10 gigabits/sec primary links with an additional 10 gigabits/sec link for redundancy to provide high reliability and high capacity.

“We are assigning existing capacity in the currently deployed Internet2 network” to support NWave, said Christian Todorov, Internet2's business development director. “As NOAA’s work grows, we would be deploying over new resources.”


Internet2 opens HOV lanes

“I think we are going to be in the position of upgrading this network almost from the minute we build it,” said Jerry Janssen, manager of NOAA's Network Operations Center in Boulder, Colo. “It will enable a lot of science across NOAA.”

NWave is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Internet2, a partnership led by the research and educational community, was established in 1996 to pick up where the old NSFnet Internet backbone left off. It provides a high-capacity, high-performance test-bed network with the bigger pipes needed by power users. It allows advanced users to try new approaches to networking without worrying about the operational requirements of a commercial network. The consortium includes more than 200 universities, 70 corporate members and 45 affiliate members, such as the Energy Department and NOAA.

“Internet2 has been enabling science at NOAA for a long time,” Janssen said.

NWave does not pose a challenge to Internet2's capacity, Todorov said. “We’ve designed our network to accommodate this kind of traffic,” he added. Internet2 already supports DOE’s high-capacity ESnet, whose 50 gigabits-per-second backbone facilitates advanced research at national labs.

NOAA climate researchers at labs in Boulder, Princeton University and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Maryland use high-performance computing to run computationally intensive climate models for near-term weather forecasts and long-term climate change predictions that span several centuries. Those simulations will generate about 80T of data a day, which NWave will carry.

“Most of the folks at NOAA are used to having their computers sitting down the hall,” Janssen said. But it is becoming impractical to locate the computing resources needed for advanced climate modeling in the research labs. “These larger computers require so much space and the power and cooling [are] so expensive that it makes more sense to move them to places where it is more economical and efficient to cool these big fire breathers,” he added.

Therefore, new computing centers are being created at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which already houses some of the world’s fastest supercomputers, and another site that has not yet been announced. Existing computing facilities will remain in the climate labs until the new centers are up and running, and there will be overlap between them.

The Global Research Network Operations Center at Indiana University will provide network support for NWave. The center also supports Internet2 network and other advanced research and education networks.

The core nodes of the NWave network are being built now, and that work is expected to be completed in a few weeks, when testing will begin. The network is scheduled to be operational in January 2011.

“We have a lot of pieces to get working together,” Janssen said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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