National LambdaRail (NLR) is a major initiative of U.S. research universities, regional networking organizations, and private sector technology companies providing a state-of-the-art national scale networking infrastructure. NLR exists both to serve “big science” and other discipline-based research initiatives in advancing knowledge and understanding and to support network research in developing new networking technologies and capabilities.
The NLR 11,000 mile nationwide infrastructure, already fully operational, enables the simultaneous deployment of multiple networks for experimental and production purposes. In addition, a comprehensive range of services is currently available to users.
Listed below are the unique characteristics enabling NLR to provide the research and education community with the powerful, flexible, and scalable networks that are increasingly critical to successful collaborative efforts across the country and around the globe.
NLR Serves the Research Community
NLR is by researchers and for researchers, allowing the actual users of this infrastructure to design networks to their needs and specifications. And history has demonstrated that networks built to provide advanced services to researchers will be immensely beneficial to educators, students, and other members of society.
The primary mission of NLR is to serve the research community (academia, government, and industry). Accordingly, it has established strong links and relationships with this community by a "can (and will) do" attitude towards the community's needs and requests. To ensure these linkages NLR has created the position of Chief Scientist, currently filled by David Farber, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science and Public Policy, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University. NLR has also created a Network Research Council and a Science Research Council, comprised of leading researchers and scientists, to ensure that the organization is responsive to the needs of major research initiatives now and into the future.
NLR is for all researchers in all disciplines, especially those working on major science initiatives and network research projects. Indeed, NLR's bylaws specify that up to 50% of the infrastructure capacity is available for network research. Currently several network research projects utilize lambdas (wavelengths) on the NLR backbone that are funded by NLR's partner, Cisco Systems.
NLR Owns Its Infrastructure
NLR is owned by its members, who are also its users. These members make the rules.
NLR's owned nationwide infrastructure enables the users to be independent of carrier service constraints and requirements. NLR is in charge of its own destiny. The deployment of a nationwide networking infrastructure by NLR is a major shift for the research and education community. It is the first time our community has owned, controlled, and operated all of the network assets. As a result, we have the ability to deploy a flexible infrastructure capable of supporting multiple, advanced research and education networks, not just one shared network. It is truly a "network of networks."
NLR's Uses of the Infrastructure are Unconstrained
NLR members determine the appropriate uses, applications, and services.
NLR does not have an Acceptable Use Policy. Indeed, NLR's bylaws provide that NLR cannot "implement any conditions of use . . . or any other restrictions on network infrastructure or services." Members can, however, set policies for uses of the capacity they control directly. In essence, NLR makes way for any AUP that is not inconsistent with "standard industry practice" or is required to preserve the 501(c) (3) status of its members. In short, NLR is AUP-Free.
NLR Focuses on User-Empowered Networking Resources and Capacity
This nation's scientists and researchers can have greater impact on national research agendas because NLR puts the control, the power, and the promise of networking in their hands.
NLR is a pure network play. That is, NLR is dedicated solely to providing and supporting the networking needs of the research and education community. It neither offers nor engages in ancillary activities that would divert it from this focus or that would dilute its efforts and financial resources.
NLR Enables Leading-Edge and Experimental Technologies
Researchers and educators can elect to create, deploy and manage their own leading-edge capabilities over NLR or to let NLR operate and manage leading-edge services for them.
NLR recognizes the importance of being at the leading edge and is positioned to stay there. NLR's most unique and important characteristic is its flexible infrastructure that can support multiple advanced research networks, and therefore permit multiple research groups/projects to be aggressive in experimenting with and adopting leading-edge technologies and services. At its foundation, NLR has deployed commercial-grade optronics; an 18-site Gigabit Ethernet switched network nation-wide--a first; and, nine advanced Cisco CRS-1 routers that can serve both the experimental and production needs of the research community. In addition, NLR can provide access to additional dark fiber for targeted network research uses. NLR is currently deploying optical switches in partnership with the Regional Optical Networks (RONs) to enable on-demand switched control plane services. More importantly, research groups and projects may link their own prototype or developmental devices to this infrastructure, run unique experiments, and capture traffic data for research purposes. In essence, NLR is positioned to push the envelope and respond to the most forward-looking research groups, institutions, and RONs.
NLR Operates a Revolutionary Reintegrated Layer 3 Facility
The entire research and education community benefits from the revolutionary integration of Layer 3 Internet Services, which provides powerful research, financial, support, and performance benefits.
PacketNet, a shared Layer 3 service with dedicated 10-gigabit wavelengths and next generation Cisco routers, is part of the NLR core architecture. PacketNet provides services not currently found on other layer 3 networks and is fully consistent with the needs and requirements of research and education. These services and capabilities include: (1) default connection type of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GE), (2) built-in redundancy, and (3) no AUP.
PacketNet was architected to enable a Layer 3 facility that was sufficiently AUP-free to serve simultaneously as an ultra-high-performance Internet fabric among the research and education community, and as a full-service peering fabric, enabling educational (.edu) institutions to peer with the commodity Internet and with specific major commercial (.com) sites.
NLR is Guided by the Regional Optical Network Organizations
Regional Optical Networks (RONs), as majority NLR owners, provide the technical direction necessary to guarantee end-to-end interconnection and interoperability of the RONs via NLR, and to support data intensive applications that require persistent large data flows, real-time visualization and collaboration, and/or remote instrumentation scheduling. RONs work locally with their members, but think globally to ensure interoperability across the NLR fabric.
NLR was created by investor members, which own and govern it � and 14 of our 15 members, in turn, own and operate 21 regional optical networks (RONs). Consequently RONs, and their aggregation of several hundred institutional members and participants, define NLR. (While The Quilt is not directly related to NLR, 16 of its 24 members participate in NLR.) NLR from its inception considered RONs as the pillars of future development of advanced networking, since they are the entities that directly serve the community's institutions and research projects. Indeed NLR is proud to have stimulated the creation of several RONs, including FLR in Florida and LEARN in Texas. The synergy of NLR and the RONs has been critical to the creation of NLR and will be equally important in the future.
NLR Provides Diverse Partnership and Strategic Relationship Opportunities
Researchers from a broad range of organizations can join forces to facilitate end-to-end networking in support of strategic research initiatives using the forum that NLR and the RONs have created.
The NLR structure enables a variety of partnership and strategic relationship models involving a wide mix of research groups, universities, corporations, non-profit organizations, non-governmental research organizations, and government research entities. Some of these partnerships are between NLR and an entity; others are between entities and do not directly involve NLR as an organization; and yet others involve several entities including NLR.
In the first category NLR has several strategic relationships that bring value to the enterprise, including relationships with the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA), the Department of Energy's UT Battelle/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, NASA, and Cisco Systems. Indeed, a keystone to NLR's success has been the investment and commitment of Cisco. NLR considers Cisco a strategic partner of NLR, and not simply a vendor of equipment; without Cisco's investment of resources (estimated at $39 million so far) to develop NLR for the purpose of advancing research in this country, and specifically for advancing network research, NLR would not be the reality it is today. NLR is also actively pursuing diverse opportunities to partner with a select number of non-profit, private sector corporations and governmental entities.
In the second category examples include the NSF TeraGrid and OptIPuter projects and Pacific Wave. Each of these initiatives involves partnerships among research groups enabled by NLR-provisioned high-capacity dedicated network connectivity. The NSF-funded Extensible TeraGrid Facility involves researchers at numerous institutions focused on major facets of collaborative research activity. The OptIPuter project, spearheaded by University of California, San Diego, and University of Illinois at Chicago, has teamed with NASA Goddard and other groups in several research areas. Pacific Wave is a partnership of two NLR members, Corporation for Education Network Initiative in California (CENIC) and Pacific Northwest GigaPoP, providing services on the west coast, including connectivity for international partners.
In the third category Southern Light Rail, the University of Alabama System, NLR, and NASA have joined forces to develop a regional optical network capability linking Atlanta-Birmingham-Huntsville-Nashville-Atlanta to serve researchers in that region.
NLR is Developing Strategic Relationships with International and National Network Organizations
Increasingly, science is global and independent of geographic boundaries. The linkages of NLR to sister networks around the globe and connections back to members RONs enable researchers throughout the US to be active participants in major research initiatives, regardless of their location.
As an organization, NLR is a relative newcomer to the research and education network arena and is working hard to earn a place in this worldwide endeavor. NLR has been a participant in the Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF) initiative for the past two years. NLR is working with principal investigators of the National Science Foundation�s International Research Networks Connection (IRNC) Program to carry USA traffic to collaborator sites throughout North America, South America, Asia and Europe. And, as needed, NLR is actively pursuing peering relationships with the major research and education networks on all the continents and with sister endeavors in the USA.
The Research and Education Community OWNS, OPERATES, and TOTALLY CONTROLS the National LambdaRail Network infrastructure, to ensure that the users provide themselves with what they want, when they want it, for as long as it takes.
NLR was created by the R&E community, for the R&E community, and is owned and controlled by the R&E community. NLR is passionately committed to meeting the diverse and eclectic needs of this community today and adapting to the needs that arise in the future. We believe the researchers in the community need to be in the driver�s-seat in defining, deploying, and providing networks to meet the unique needs of our various constituencies. We are committed to this as a fundamental principle, and are here to assist researchers and educators, however we can.