terena logo
27 November 2012
New workshop inspires next-generation network architects
Lars Fischer (NORDUNet) chairs the panel discussion at the first Network Architects Workshop.

Network designers and deployers shared their experiences and recommendations in building next-generation research and education networks during TERENA’s first Network Architects Workshop on 21-22 November. This event was hosted in Kastrup, Copenhagen, by NORDUnet, the Nordic regional networking organisation, and was held back-to-back with a workshop organised by the GN3 (GÉANT) project's Joint Research Activity on future network technologies.

To lay solid foundations for participants to understand the current research network architectures and European backbone network services, the workshop kicked off with presentations about the pan-European GÉANT network and the NORDUnet network, highlighting how NRENs (National Research and Education Networking organisations) can collectively deliver to users. The workshop included national network overviews presented by CESNET (Czech Republic), DFN (Germany), GRNET (Greece), HEAnet (Ireland), PSNC (Poland), RedIRIS (Spain), SURFnet (Netherlands) and SWITCH (Switzerland).

European backbone updates

DANTE, which operates the GÉANT network, explained that it is migrating the Alcatel DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) transport platform to the equipment supplier Infinera, while also improving the reliability of the optical fibre paths by breaking up the shared risk fibre groups where possible. GMPLS (Generalised Multi-Protocol Label Switching) will be operational from day one on the new platform. On top of the new optical platform, GÉANT Plus services as well as Bandwidth on Demand will be available to all NRENs with access to a Juniper MX box.

NORDUnet emphasised the importance of direct IP peering with commercial operators, especially when cloud services outside the NRENs’ domains are heavily accessed by users. The possibility of NRENs reaching Tier-1 status and becoming transit-free was considered, with NREN collaboration and consolidated peering being the best option to achieve this. However, beside the technical challenges, the highly political characteristics of such an effort may inhibit some NRENs from participating and brings the ultimate benefits into question.

SDN and how to further network architecture development

Eric Boyd of Internet2 and Inder Monga of ESnet (United States) gave presentations addressing the SDN (Software Defined Networking) concept, which participants found particularly innovative and interesting for the coming years. Victor Reijs of HEAnet (Ireland) explained the NaaS (Network as a Service) concept and Mauro Campanella of GARR (Italy) described the basic design principles behind the former FEDERICA project architecture, each underlining that new SDN-based network architecture can build on stacks of already existing foundations. Rather than change, existing building blocks and basic architectural principles are simply extended.

The event concluded with a lively panel discussion. Differences were noted between the pragmatic design decisions that are required about single domain production networks and the architectural decisions required for diverse multi-domain research environments. In designing their own single domains, different NRENs have chosen different optical vendors, making the interoperability of lower layers more difficult. Also, IP (Internet Protocol) seems to be the only globally interoperable protocol, while all other networking solutions (below and above in the protocol stack) are changing and evolving rapidly. However, in the multi-domain context there can be a stack of architectures and various – sometimes recursive – protocol stacks on the solid basis of the production networks. Therefore fostering the harmonisation of architectures as well as promoting a common strategy towards interoperable multi-domain services (especially at 100 Gb/s with the possibility of using alien waves) is important for the future.


Forty participants from 20 different organisations attended the workshop. Peter Kaufmann of DFN (Germany), one of the workshop’s speakers, said: “The Network Architects Workshop has been a good event. It provided an interesting overview about various implementation plans in Europe and also interesting talks about various architecture topics like SDN and Layer2/Layer3 transport mechanisms. One should have such events again.”

Further information

The TERENA Architect Workshop was held back-to-back with the GN3 JRA1 Task 1&2 Workshop, which provided information on basic infrastructure by investigating emerging technologies such as Carrier Class Transport technologies and Photonics.

More information is available about the Network Architects Workshop agenda and presentation slides as well as the GN3 JRA1 Task 1&2 Workshop agenda and presentation slides.

Information about the organisation that hosted the Network Architects Workshop is available on the NORDUnet website.