North American Research and Education Organizations Launch New Experimental Network and Exchange Collaboration: NA-REX

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Seven advanced research and education (R&E) networks and exchange point consortia are collaborating to establish a new high-performance experimental network service connecting global exchange points in North America. Their collaboration promises enhanced capacity, coordination, and testing capabilities to develop next-generation network services, technologies, and foundational infrastructure supporting global science and innovation.

The North America – Research Education Exchange (NA-REX) interconnects international exchange points in the U.S. and Canada using a common architecture, integrated services, shared tools, and aligned operations. NA-REX participants are:

“The connectivity provided by the NA-REX collaboration will contribute to the success of multiple large-scale scientific research endeavors,” said Jonah Keough, Pacific Wave managing director and NA-REX chair. “Through this partnership, we plan to simplify connectivity for international partners while creating additional capacity to support researchers.”

Beyond international connectivity, NA-REX is already accelerating experimental applications and testing within the National Research Platform (NRP), Global Research Platform (GRP), FABRIC, and Open Science Data Federation (OSDF). Looking forward, the collaboration aims to facilitate developing projects like the National Data Platform (NSF Award # 2333609) and Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

NA-REX offers advances in holistic and collaborative R&E networking. From high-capacity bandwidth to analytics and monitoring to automation and customized service provisioning, NA-REX participants are building new organizational and technical bridges to improve efficiency and resiliency for their communities.

“The NA-REX platform will enable experimenting with and prototyping highly advanced next-generation communication services closely integrating open exchanges, regional, national, and international networks, large-scale scientific instrumentation, and compute facilities including clouds, supercomputing centers, and specialized analytic clusters,” said Joe Mambretti, director of StarLight and the International Center for Advanced Internet Research at Northwestern University.

Building On a Successful Pilot

The participants are expanding on a pilot project initiated by Internet2 and Pacific Wave in 2019. 

The pilot established 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) interconnectivity between two exchange point consortia on the U.S. East and West Coasts. It also laid the groundwork for operational coordination among project support teams.

Now with seven organizations on board and an expanded scope, the NA-REX collaboration has a renewed focus on providing enhanced R&E network services through improved connectivity, performance, capacity, shared tools, and operational coordination.

“We are excited to expand the NA-REX consortium to include more of our North American international partners,” said Chris Wilkinson, senior director of infrastructure engineering and architecture for Internet2 Network Services and NA-REX co-chair. “It provides participants a unique opportunity to leverage the deep expertise of our community to facilitate and optimize the use of our shared platforms — and, ideally, integrate them into a highly effective system to accelerate science collaboration.”

Boosting Capacity for Transcontinental, Global Connectivity

The NA-REX collaboration will expand participating organizations’ reach throughout the continent and globally with more resiliency and efficiency. Starting in 2024, NA-REX plans to deploy additional 100 and 400 Gbps circuits on existing R&E infrastructure to interconnect global exchange points throughout the U.S. and in Canada. The reach will include exchange points in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York, Seattle, Sunnyvale, and Washington, D.C. 

These locations are key interconnection points where global R&E networks in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Pacific Islands, and South America connect to North American networks — including CANARIE in Canada and ESnet and Internet2 in the U.S. — as well as to each other. 

Alignment for Automation, Analytics, and Testing

The NA-REX infrastructure also offers redundancy and automated failover for connections between exchange points. Furthermore, participants promote transparency, coordination, and effective use of resources by sharing network performance and measurement data and supporting optimal routing paths.

The experimental network also plays an important role in testing next-generation network services and applications. During the SC23 conference in Denver, NA-REX supported 20 SCinet Network Research Exhibitions (NREs) from around the world. Demonstrations included the latest in high-performance, high-capacity wide area network services, Data Transfer Node (DTN) throughput capabilities, network automation, and provisioning software. The NREs involved testbeds like FABRIC, Chameleon, Network-Optimized Transfer of Experimental Data (NOTED), Scitags, and the Global P4 Lab. 

“NA-REX proved to be an invaluable asset to the success of the SC23 conference and SCinet, providing a robust platform for testing next-generation network services and applications,” said Hans Addleman, SC23 SCinet chair and technical director for International Networks at Indiana University. “Through collaborative efforts with testbeds like FABRIC, Chameleon, NOTED, Scitags, and the Global P4 Lab, NA-REX enabled us to push the boundaries of innovation in research and education networking. As we look forward to SC24 in Atlanta, plans are already underway to continue leveraging NA-REX’s capabilities to support future NREs and drive further advancements in the field.”