Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Saturday, August 15, 2020
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IBM, Carrier Partners Claim Elastic Networking Advance 

Researchers from AT&T, IBM, and Applied Communication Sciences said they have built a prototype network that promises to reduce the set up time for inter-cloud connectivity from days to seconds. The scientists said their elastic cloud-to-cloud networking scheme could eventually lead to "sub-second" cloud provisioning via IP and next-generation optical networking equipment.

The result, they added, would be the provisioning of "elastic bandwidth between clouds at high connection request rates using intelligent cloud datacenter orchestrators" that would replace current static provisioning during periods of peak demand.

Dynamic networking represents an alternative to the current "always on" approach that provides reliable network connections for clouds. "Making the bandwidth flexible means being able to adjust the bandwidth on existing connections, which in turn requires making extremely fast decisions, using datacenter software, about adjustments between cloud-to-cloud connections," IBM's Douglas Freimuth explained in a blog post.

The cloud networking advance stems from a pre-cloud U.S. military research program called CORONET (Core Optical Networks: Architecture, Protocols and Management) funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The CORONET program's original objective was to "develop the architecture, protocols, and control and management software for highly dynamic, multi-terabit global core optical networks with greatly enhanced performance, survivability and security," a DARPA solicitation stated.


Launched in 2007, the goal of the DARPA research program was to transfer CORONET technology to commercial telecommunications carriers. At the time, the DARPA solicitation made no reference to what became known as "cloud" computing.

Nevertheless, the research program sought to "enable ultra-fast service set-up/tear-down as well as very fast recovery from multiple network failures." Researchers envisioned an IP-based network using optical wavelength division multiplexing technology.

The DARPA dynamic networking program was "visionary in anticipating the convergence of cloud computing and networking, and in setting aggressive requirements for network performance in support of cloud services,” Ann Von Lehmen, the program lead at Applied Communication Sciences, said in a statement.

While DARPA provided the research funds, ACS contributed network management expertise along with optical-layer routing and signaling know-how as part of the cloud networking architecture.

AT&T developed the overall networking architecture based on its bandwidth-on-demand technologies while IBM provided the cloud platform and datacenter orchestration tools.

The partners said their cloud network prototype was implemented on OpenStack with elastic provisioning via WAN connections. The IBM cloud platform and orchestration technology managed virtual machine network applications running on OpenStack software. The configuration monitored server load and requested cloud-to-cloud network bandwidth.


Virtual machines were placed between two clouds to balance loads for virtual network functions. The partners argued that the use of load balancing, remote datacenter backup, and elastic scaling of workloads could result in cost savings and operational efficiencies for cloud service providers and network carriers.


The multiyear DARPA program initially focused on demonstrating fast provisioning of bandwidth-on-demand services in 20 to 100 terabits per second networks along with network resiliency. The long-term focus is commercial carrier networks. The final phase of the CORONET program included laboratory test bed demonstrations of bandwidth-on-demand capabilities for cloud applications.

Verizon and other equipment vendors also participated in the prototype demonstration.

The partners estimated that dynamic services constitute about 30 percent of network traffic. Setup times in as little as 40 seconds were achieved during the demonstration, along with sub-second provisioning that was aided by next generation optical multiplexers.

The remaining challenges, the partners added, include resiliency, capacity management, and multilayer operation along with network, traffic, and application scaling.

DARPA program manager Matt Goodman said the CORONET program could help usher in new dynamic cloud services through efficient bandwidth sharing, reducing costs for cloud providers and carriers.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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