Next-Generation Performance Assurance: Internet2’s Mike Simpson on Expanding perfSONAR Capabilities to Support the New Network

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By Amber Rasche - Senior Communications Specialist, Internet2

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Mike Simpson is the director of infrastructure systems and software in the network services division of Internet2. In this Q&A, Mike talks about expanding and upgrading Internet2’s perfSONAR capabilities to support the Next Generation Infrastructure.

One of the key drivers for the Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI) program is creating a software-enabled, edge-to-edge ecosystem to eliminate telemetry barriers and operational barriers. What role will perfSONAR play in those efforts?

An integral piece of the NGI rollout has been an expansion and upgrade to Internet2’s perfSONAR capabilities, grouped under our Performance Assurance Service (PAS). This includes the installation of PAS nodes at each of the 47 packet-serving points of presence (PoPs) on the NGI network. There are a few PoPs within NGI that are optical-only; for those, we are not currently deploying a PAS node. 

Each of the PAS nodes includes two 100G-capable perfSONAR test points. While one is intended primarily for internal use – monitoring, alerting, and testing of the NGI backbone – the other 100G test point is dedicated for use by the broader community interconnecting with NGI. 

Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI) logo

This new capability is part of our efforts to create an edge-to-edge ecosystem and eliminate telemetry barriers. We are planning to engage with interested community members soon to further identify what the community-facing PAS should look like, including the appropriate access policies and processes for standard user testing and a more robust service coordinated by Internet2 staff for higher-bandwidth testing. 

That engagement will likely start later this fall, as we complete the NGI service migrations and finish deploying the internal-facing PAS functionality. As of today, we are about 50% operational with the internal deployments, and we expect to complete the internal testing mesh over the next month or so. 

What are some examples of the measurement-related capabilities that Internet2 members can expect with the new infrastructure?

Two new key characteristics will be expanded coverage across all of our PoPs and the ability to test at higher speeds. We are also taking advantage of the perfSONAR project’s support for container-based deployment of the test points, which should make it easier in the future to perform upgrades and gain quicker access to the new functionality that Mark Feit talked about in this recent blog post. I hope the community engagement around member-facing functionality will also drive out some new ideas for other useful things we could do with these nodes now that we have them deployed.

Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding implementing perfSONAR in support of NGI?

It’s been quite an adventure, and we have been piling up pages and pages of notes on every aspect of the project as we’ve been moving through it – from major details such as hardware specifications, choice of deployment platform, system tweaking, and network performance tuning, to the very nitty-gritty such as the kinds of cabling used to connect the PAS servers to the routers, or which specific memory slots in the servers are the best place to populate the DIMMs relative to the CPU architecture and where the networking card is installed. 

There are no unimportant details, and everything contributes to the ultimate functionality delivered through the perfSONAR software sitting at the top of the technology stack. Not coincidentally, we’ve recently had conversations about hosting a workshop sometime this fall or early next year. For that event, we would invite folks who are deploying perfSONAR nodes to participate, share their experiences, trade configuration tips and tricks, and generally spend a few hours getting into the weeds with each other’s implementation choices.

Did you know? NGI delivers new capabilities and value for data-intensive researchers; cloud connectivity, infrastructure sharing, and collaboration with regional networks; software-driven programmability; and resetting the economics of network scalability. If you have questions, email the team at networkdevelopment@internet2.edu.