Article submitted by Rod Wilson from Ciena
To some, the business case to provide millions of dollars in product and services to create a network that exists for only four days might be hard to fathom. But participating vendors have stepped up year over year, some for over a decade because SCinet delivers great and sustained value that lasts for years, not days. Our investment forms a strong business case, from both a technical and personnel point of view.
Industry participants attend planning meetings many months before SC to contribute our knowledge and expertise, and to learn about the community networking requirements. The spirit is highly collaborative and, not surprisingly considering the community, very collegiate. Vendors are able to check their commercial competitive egos at the door and roll up their sleeves to play a definitive roll in the creation of SCinet. The year-over-year expansion of capabilities, functionality and capacity is a truly remarkable accomplishment.
I believe a primary motivator is because engineers love encountering a vexing problem, and the sheer complexity of SCinet offers a unique challenge for vendors to mesh their best products in a challenging environment. It’s a networking problem like no other, and solving it simply put, something we want to be part of. If there were not stretched objectives and new challenging requirements each year, creating SCinet would become routine, and if this was the case some vendors (and volunteers) would withdraw. I am amazed at how every year the user community pushes the envelope, and demands faster, more agile and flexible networking solutions from SCinet.
SCinet allows vendors to work collaboratively with researchers on the exhibit floor, extending their capabilities to create testbeds for experimentation both on the floor and out to home institutions. For example, the Open Cloud Consortium is utilizing a 2.2Tbps infrastructure for large flows of scientific data. This short term capacity is not really feasible outside of SCinet. We are pleased to play a role in enabling these specialized experiments.
Another benefit is that the 200 volunteers that build SCinet get exposure to the industry’s cutting edge products and services, some becoming intimately involved in installation, configuration and operation. Many SCinet volunteers return year after year because of this. There is no other place on earth where the diversity of high-end networking equipment is deployed in such a demanding environment. Bringing home your personal experience from working with these products is incredibly valuable. SCinet is a networking graduate course and those that work the NOC never forget it.
The human factor is compelling for vendors too. Our employees and contributing personnel learn a great deal from working shoulder to shoulder with a diversity of networking specialists from all over the world. We learn about local, national and international networking challenges in this unique environment and how each volunteer contributes insights into those challenges. In addition to “stress testing” our equipment in this most demanding infrastructure, we gain insights on new requirements, use cases and features that may not otherwise be found.
A well-known adage in the vendor networking community is, “pay attention to what research and education networks are doing today, as these often foreshadow future networking requirements.” SCinet is the epitome of this sentiment and industry takes note of what we learn. This is a truly symbiotic environment that helps advance the science of high performance networking in a very tangible and practical way.
Participants from both the research networking community and the vendor community take tremendous pride in delivering SCinet to SC attendees. In today’s telecom market, collaboration is crucial to driving the exchanging of ideas and spurring innovation. Working together on SCinet has helped facilitate new industry milestones , while also forging life-long friendships and memories that for many are career highlights.