National LambdaRail Opens for Business

By Michael Feldman

October 28, 2008

The commercialization of the largest optical network used by the U.S. research community is at hand. Back in June, Darkstrand Inc. announced that it had purchased half the capacity of the National LambdaRail (NLR) to offer high-speed connectivity to commercial firms. Darkstrand, a three year-old network services startup, has raised $12 million to get the project off the ground. This week the company finalized its plans, announcing the optical network would be available for commercial use at the beginning of 2009.

Launched in September 2003, NLR is a non-profit organization that manages the most extensive multi-gigabit network used by the nation’s higher education academic and research communities. Its purpose is to enable “big science” and explore cutting-edge network technologies. The 15,000 mile transcontinental network of dark fiber purchased from Level 3 Communications encompasses 30 U.S. cities, and with the associated regional optical networks, reaches almost the entire continental U.S. Its members include national labs, universities, and regional optical networks, along with Cisco Systems as the principal corporate partner.

The network is based upon dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, using Cisco’s 15808 and 15454 optical electronic system. These systems have a capacity of 40 and 32 wavelengths per fiber pair respectively, with each wavelength supporting transmission speeds of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). NLR is currently replacing the 15808 systems to expand the capacity to 160 and 128 wavelengths. As a result of this upgrade, NLR is scheduled to introduce 40 Gbps circuits in January 2009.

Despite its multi-gigabit per second speeds, NLR’s path to commercialization has been slow. The failed merger with Internet2, which fell apart last year, was a distraction. But the bigger issue is that NLR, being research-focused, was not equipped to build the bridge to industry. Whereas corporations develop business cases, scientific organizations deal in research grants. “You’ve got to have that middle piece,” explains Darkstrand CEO Michael Stein. “We’ve actually seen arguments break out between Caterpillar and Argonne National Lab because they don’t speak the same language.”

That’s where Darkstrand comes in. Although the company’s name alludes to a dark fiber solution, in this case their role will be selling half of NLR’s existing lit fiber to commercial companies, especially those in media and entertainment, manufacturing, biotech and financial services. Darkstrand already has strong ties to corporate America, especially in the media and manufacturing segments. Stein himself was VP of a high-end engineering consulting firm that specialized in large-scale product data management solutions for companies like Caterpillar, BMW, Motorola and John Deere. More recently, he was the chief architect of business expansion for Digital Kitchen, a cutting-edge, motion graphics production company.

Unlike the residential and triple-play markets served by the telco companies, this commercial market is still up for grabs. Stein says only 4 to 8 percent of the telco industry’s capital expenditures are invested in the enterprise market, and it’s these companies that continue to look for a high performance networking solution. “All of them have employed some sort of dark fiber strategy — either at the local level or looking to a national footprint,” Stein says. “Even though these are the people who build tractors, make movies, and sell insurance, they are building their own networks because they’re not seeing the services they need from the telco space.”

But Darkstrand will be more than just a network broker. The business plan to bring industry into the multi-gigabit realm also involves giving commercial firms access to high-end expertise at NLR-affiliated national labs and universities. To accomplish this, Darkstrand will perform management services for firms looking to tap into HPC tools and technologies with test pilot and proof-of-concept projects. Customers will also have access to ongoing research and development at these high-tech centers. Although NLR will remain a non-profit entity, the commercial deals will involve revenue sharing between member organizations and NLR.

The rationale is that moving to a high performance network involves more than just plugging in. At tens of gigabits per second, workflows may change and even the underlying applications may need to be modified — or in some cases developed from scratch. For example, auto manufacturers wanting to do cross-country vehicle design can look to the processes and tools used by NASA when they designed the Space Shuttle.

The mixed business model of networking and project management services may seem unconventional, but it won the day against several more established bidders, says Stein. According to him, Darkstrand was the only startup in the mix. And although they weren’t offering the most favorable financial deal to NLR, they still ended up with the contract.

Although the current network spans 30 major U.S. cities, Darkstrand is filling out “last mile” issues by arranging deals with regional optical networks, which in some cases are already NLR members. For example, in Florida, the NLR drop is in Jacksonville, but the regional Florida LambdaRail extends access to most of the remainder of the state. Similar regional networks can be tapped in New York, the Midwest, California and elsewhere. The idea is to minimize the telco infrastructure in the network whenever possible, although sometimes there are usage issues to work out if the local networks are controlled by state funding.

Stein has been busy lining up NLR customers and should be announcing the first handful early next year. If everything goes according to plan, the first commercial users should be online at the end of January, coinciding with the network’s upgrade to 40 Gbps circuits. Although most customers won’t be taking advantage of that bandwidth immediately, the upgrade provides a convenient starting point for the commercial launch.

The second stage of the business plan is to provide an international footprint via the Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF). GLIF’s research POPs come into the U.S. at LambdaRail peering points: From the Seattle POP you can get to Asia, while Europe is connected via New York and Chicago. Stein say they’re planning to roll out international connectivity sometime next year.

Darkstrand’s challenge is to convince customers that NLR will provide a stable, long-term platform for their networking needs, and will help them remain competitive in their respective markets. To date, Stein is seeing a lot of initial enthusiasm and says he’s surprised out how quickly his pipeline has filled up. “Our pitch is that nobody’s going to build the LambdaRail again,” he says. “It’s digital beachfront property. Buy this infrastructure while you can.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft Azure Adds Graphcore’s IPU

November 15, 2019

Graphcore, the U.K. AI chip developer, is expanding collaboration with Microsoft to offer its intelligent processing units on the Azure cloud, making Microsoft the first large public cloud vendor to offer the IPU designe Read more…

By George Leopold

At SC19: What Is UrgentHPC and Why Is It Needed?

November 14, 2019

The UrgentHPC workshop, taking place Sunday (Nov. 17) at SC19, is focused on using HPC and real-time data for urgent decision making in response to disasters such as wildfires, flooding, health emergencies, and accidents. We chat with organizer Nick Brown, research fellow at EPCC, University of Edinburgh, to learn more. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

China’s Tencent Server Design Will Use AMD Rome

November 13, 2019

Tencent, the Chinese cloud giant, said it would use AMD’s newest Epyc processor in its internally-designed server. The design win adds further momentum to AMD’s bid to erode rival Intel Corp.’s dominance of the glo Read more…

By George Leopold

NCSA Industry Conference Recap – Part 1

November 13, 2019

Industry Program Director Brendan McGinty welcomed guests to the annual National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Industry Conference, October 8-10, on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana (UIUC). One hundred seventy from 40 organizations attended the invitation-only, two-day event. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing components with Intel Xeon, AMD Epyc, IBM Power, and Arm server ch Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel AI Summit: New ‘Keem Bay’ Edge VPU, AI Product Roadmap

November 12, 2019

At its AI Summit today in San Francisco, Intel touted a raft of AI training and inference hardware for deployments ranging from cloud to edge and designed to support organizations at various points of their AI journeys. The company revealed its Movidius Myriad Vision Processing Unit (VPU)... Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Adds Support for Ion Trap Quantum Technology to Qiskit

November 11, 2019

After years of percolating in the shadow of quantum computing research based on superconducting semiconductors – think IBM, Rigetti, Google, and D-Wave (quant Read more…

By John Russell

Tackling HPC’s Memory and I/O Bottlenecks with On-Node, Non-Volatile RAM

November 8, 2019

On-node, non-volatile memory (NVRAM) is a game-changing technology that can remove many I/O and memory bottlenecks and provide a key enabler for exascale. That’s the conclusion drawn by the scientists and researchers of Europe’s NEXTGenIO project, an initiative funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program to explore this new... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

MLPerf Releases First Inference Benchmark Results; Nvidia Touts its Showing

November 6, 2019

MLPerf.org, the young AI-benchmarking consortium, today issued the first round of results for its inference test suite. Among organizations with submissions wer Read more…

By John Russell

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Launches Credit Card-Sized 21 TOPS Jetson System for Edge Devices

November 6, 2019

Nvidia has launched a new addition to its Jetson product line: a credit card-sized (70x45mm) form factor delivering up to 21 trillion operations/second (TOPS) o Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This