May 2005
The Cyberinfrastructure Backplane: The Jump to Light Speed
TransLight, a Major US Component of the GLIF
An Optical Web Connecting Research Networks in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim
Tom DeFanti, University of Illinois, Chicago
Maxine Brown, University of Illinois, Chicago
Joe Mambretti, Northwestern University
John Silvester, University of Southern California
Ron Johnson, University of Washington


International carriers have extraordinary overcapacity and they are actively seeking market development. According to an article in the Business section of the May 10, 2004 edition of the New York Times, “11 percent of available undersea bandwidth globally is being used.5” TransLight can lead the broadest science and engineering research and education communities to exploit this bandwidth to communicate and collaborate while demonstrating to the carrier community that market opportunities will emerge.

TransLight History

TransLight was an outgrowth of the NSF Euro-Link award, which funded high-performance connections between the US and Europe from 1999 through June 2005. TransLight, conceived in 2001 and started in 2003, was and continues to be a rational global network architecture that achieves great economy of scale and provides links to the largest communities of interest with the broadest services. In 2002, the goal was to give researchers who participated in iGrid 20026 as much international bandwidth as they could use. We engaged network managers, carriers, artists, network engineers, computer scientists, and domain scientists. We persisted at Supercomputing (SC) conferences in November 2002 and November 2003. Those who participated in these events published many journal and conference papers based on their results.7 By mid-2003, TransLight became the first persistent LambdaGrid.

In 2003, in partnership with SURFnet, NSF Euro-Link funds were used to purchase an OC-192 transatlantic circuit between Chicago and Amsterdam that provided both Layer 2 and Layer 3 connectivity. This hybrid network architecture provided the research and education community with both packet-switched (Layer 3) routed paths for many-to-many usage, as well as circuit-switched (Layer 2) lightpaths (or lambdas) for high-speed few-to-few usage.

TransLight quickly became a global partnership among institutions, organizations, consortia or country NRNs who wished to make additional bandwidth on their links available for scheduled, experimental use8. TransLight evolved into a two-year experiment to develop a governance model of how the US and international networking collaborators would work together to provide a common infrastructure in support of scientific research. In September 2004, as more and more countries began sharing bandwidth among one another, TransLight members dissolved the TransLight Governance body in favor of having the GLIF, an international body, assume this role.

GLIF partners are now organizing institutions of the iGrid 2005 event, to be held at the new Calit2 building in San Diego, September 26-30, 2005.9 Emphasis is on demonstrating applications research and middleware development that utilize new architectural approaches to next-generation Internet design and development using optical networking. Communities of interest will create their own private networks or share networks, creating on-demand LambdaGrids of interconnected, distributed computing, sensor and instrument resources that enable new infrastructures for advanced science.

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Reference this article
DeFanti,T., Brown, M., Mambretti, J., Silvester, J., Johnson, R. "TransLight, a Major US Component of the GLIF," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 2, May 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/05/trans-light/

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