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Moving towards 400G services – Supporting the emerging needs of Europe’s NRENs

When the first NREN networks were developed, speeds of 64-256Kbps were considered perfectly adequate to support the limited numbers of researchers and students needing access to remote services or networks – only a very few students had access to computers let alone owned their own.

Progressively the needs of research and education have accelerated and so connection speeds between networks have grown and grown.

The current maximum speed at which an NREN can connect to GÉANT has now reached 100Gbps which seems, to those of us who still remember 64kbps services, to be an unimaginably fast connection but even now NRENs are demanding increased capacity to support advanced research, the needs of cloud computing services and larger numbers of remotely working staff and students.

As the existing 100Gbps connections to the NRENs become full we need a new solution, the obvious and easy approach would be to simply add extra 100Gbps connections, but this results in difficulties.

  • Hardware – each separate 100Gbps connection requires its own interface equipment adding to the implementation costs and also ongoing maintenance.
  • Power and Cooling – More hardware means more power and that requires more cooling adding to the costs.
  • Flexibility – NRENs use connections to GÉANT not just for IP traffic but also for a range of point-to-point connections. Managing the distribution of these bandwidth allocations across multiple 100Gbps circuits is difficult and can result in wasted capacity or capacity available in unusably small allocations.
  • Cost – often the cost of two 100Gbps connections would be the same or greater than an equivalent 400Gbps service.

For these reasons, GÉANT is working to be able to provide NRENs with connections to the new GN4-3N network at speeds of 400Gbps. These services are in operation in the dedicated lab test-bed in GÉANT’s Cambridge office and staff are working to ensure they can be integrated into the GN4-3N network and fully supported by the GÉANT NOC before being made available to NRENs.

GÉANT's test labs in Cambridge
GÉANT’s test labs in Cambridge

These connections will provide greater capacity, increased flexibility and lower overall costs than the current multiple 100Gbps connections and help GÉANT and the NRENs support the needs of research and education into the next generation.

Learn more on the GÉANT Network website: https://network.geant.org 

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