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


The US National Science Foundation (NSF) funds two complementary efforts through its International Research Connection Networks (IRNC) program — TransLight/StarLight and TransLight/Pacific Wave — that provide multi-gigabit links and supporting infrastructure to interconnect North American, European and Pacific Rim research & education networks, as well as to supplement available bandwidth that is provided by other countries.

TransLight/StarLight’s mission is to best serve established US/European production science, including support for scientists, engineers and educators who have persistent large-flow, real-time, and/or other advanced application requirements. Two OC-192 circuits are being implemented between the US and Europe. One circuit is a 10 Gb/s link that connects Internet2/Abilene and the pan-European G√ČANT2 via a routed network connection. The second circuit is a 10 Gb/s link that connects US hybrid networks, which can provide high performance, dedicated optical channels, such as the National LambdaRail (NLR), to similar European networks at NetherLight (configured as either one 10 Gb or eight 1 Gb switched circuits, or lambdas). Considerations related to security and measurement/monitoring will carefully be addressed under this award for both circuits.1

TransLight/Pacific Wave’s mission is the development of a distributed Open Exchange along the US west coast, from Seattle to San Diego, to interconnect North American, Asian, Australian and Mexican/South American links.2

Across North America, NLR, Canada’s CA*net4, and Internet2’s Abilene and Hybrid Optical and Packet Infrastructure (HOPI) projects connect the combined TransLights, from New York (Manhattan Landing, or MAN LAN), to Chicago (StarLight), to Seattle (Pacific Northwest GigaPoP). Pacific Wave carries the connection from Seattle down the US west coast to Los Angeles and on to San Diego and Tijuana (via CalREN - the California Research and Education Network, which is operated by CENIC - the Corporation for Educational Network Initiatives in California). These locations are the sites that support the vast majority of international connections to the US and form the fabric by which most international networks peer and exchange traffic with Abilene and the US Federal Research Networks. The TransLight team is the global community of people and groups who have most advanced the art, architecture, practice, and science of Open Exchange interconnectivity among high-performance networks. TransLight’s approach is based not just on backbone connectivity, but end-to-end connectivity and activism in advanced networking and applications, with a proven track record in attracting new technologies and stimulating collaborations, especially among leading domain scientists at end sites.

TransLight enables grid researchers and application developers to experiment with deterministic provisioning of dedicated circuits and then compare results with standard, aggregated “best-effort” Internet traffic. Multi-gigabit networks are referred to as “deterministic” networks, as they guarantee specific service attributes, such as bandwidth (for researchers who need to move large amounts of data), latency (to support real-time collaboration and visualization), and the time of usage (for those who need to schedule use of remote instrumentation or computers). Only through deployment of an integrated research and production infrastructure at network layers 1 through 3 will the various technical communities be able to address the major challenges of large-scale and complex systems research in peer-to-peer systems, Grids, collaboratories, peering, routing, network management, network monitoring, end-to-end QoS, adaptive and ad hoc networks, fault tolerance, high availability, and critical infrastructure to support advanced applications and Grids.3

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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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