Poland launches ‘pionier’ optical scientific network

Oct. 1, 2004
Once restricted by the bandwidth limitations of 622-Mbit/sec ATM leased-line connections, Polish researchers today rely on the largest scientific network ever deployed by a European country: PIONIER, the Polish Optical Internet. When the final five of 21 academic MANs are interconnected-scheduled to occur by the end of this year-PIONIER will have reached 5,500 km of optical fiber, delivering 10 Gbits/sec of networking power.
PIONIER supports transmission speeds up to 10 Gbits/sec across 2,600 km of optical fiber, making it the largest scientific network ever deployed by a European country.

“PIONIER is not just a network; it’s a complete development program,” contends Artur Binczewski, manager of the network department of Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center (PSNC), which serves as PIONIER’s research and development center for new-generation networks, grids, and portals. “The long-term purpose was to facilitate the ongoing development of the information society in Poland, and PIONIER has provided us with the robust, flexible network architecture necessary to enable this vision.”

Designed and financed by Poland’s State Committee for Scientific Research, PIONIER serves four primary functions:

  • Provide Polish researchers with reliable high-speed connectivity to the global information society.
  • Enable the dynamic creation of dedicated networks supporting advanced services such as domain-specific high-performance Geographic Resources Information and Data System (GRIDS).
  • Promote new models of operation and cooperation among government and economic institutions through advanced services and applications.
  • Give Polish software developers the IT infrastructure they require to compete and contribute in contemporary science, education, administration, economy, and other fields.

As part of the GÉANT vision of a multigigabit pan-European network, PIONIER is being linked with neighboring national research and education networks (NRENs). Connections into the Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovakia will bring Poland into an “e-region,” and through the “Porta Optica” project the network will be expanded to Poland’s eastern neighbors.

Even in this nascent stage in the network’s overall development, Polish science has benefited from PIONIER’s capabilities. In interferometry, astronomers link data gathered by multiple radio telescopes to create space images of tremendous expanse and resolution. A very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) radio telescope can generate more than 1 Gbit/sec of traffic during a single session. Before deployment of the PIONIER network, VLBI radio-telescope data had to be stored on magnetic tape and shipped to central correlators abroad to give Polish astronomers usable images. Using PIONIER’s 10-Gbit/sec capacity, VLBI radio-telescope data can be carried across the network, cutting cycle times and costs for agencies.

Polish physicists are experiencing similar benefits with PIONIER. The Large Hadron Collider experiments conducted at CERN (Conseil European pour la Recherché Nucleaire) laboratories in Geneva, for example, are replicating conditions of the early universe in the wake of the “Big Bang.” Before PIONIER, Polish physicists were never able to access full experiment data from CERN. The 10-Gbit/sec backbone will enable the Polish physicists to more fully participate in the exploration of matter’s structure and formation.

PIONIER holds equivalent promise for Polish scientists in a variety of other disciplines, including:

  • Biotechnology, for extracting and using genetic molecular information and developing biological information technologies.
  • Medicine, for designing and optimizing therapies, examining the nature of physiological processes and the impact of controlled influences upon them, and rolling out available distributed knowledge systems and digital archives for remote treatment.
  • Material technologies, for creating new alloys and composites and coming to a more complete understanding of non-aliphatic structures and other amorphous systems.
  • Natural environment, for crafting new techniques for protecting resources and deploying distributed systems for monitoring and alerting of environmental hazards.

For the first time, Polish scientists are exploring the possibilities of state-of-the-art applications such as distributed storage and computation, optical virtual private networks (VPNs), virtual laboratories, distance learning, collaborative work groups, multimedia streaming, remote visualization, and networked knowledge bases. Access is integrated through next-generation Worldwide Web portals.

Serious talks about deploying such an infrastructure began in 1999. The Polish government approved deployment of a pilot network one year later, and PSNC issued a public tender in 2002 that spelled out demanding initial and ongoing requirements:

  • A reliable, scalable, secure architecture interlinking 16 academic MANs across Poland.
  • 10-Gigabit Ethernet transmission delivered end-to-end.
  • A cost-effective native 10-Gbit/sec optical solution that could be easily expanded as additional bandwidth is required to support new applications and services.

While it was being determined what equipment would light PIONIER, PSNC was acquiring rights of way along public roads, railway tracks, and power distribution lines and installing optical fiber across Poland. “We knew national deployment would be the big step,” explains Maciej Stroinski, technical director at PSNC, “but what we wanted to achieve, we’ve achieved.”

PSNC selected ADVA’s FSP 3000 Slimline platform, which employs parallel use of DWDM and TDM technology to accommodate all protocols between 8 Mbits/sec and 10 Gbits/sec. While the PIONIER network currently uses only a single 10-Gbit/sec wavelength, the system can provide a total transport capacity of 320 Gbits/sec over a single fiber pair. The platform’s design supports point-to-point, linear add/drop, ring, and meshed network topologies of up to 10 nodes across distances up to 500 km without regeneration. Within the PIONIER network, nodes access the FSP 3000-enabled backbone via switches that also support the VPN/virtual LAN functions mentioned previously.

As PIONIER’s application needs evolve, new services can be introduced simply and rapidly with a few mouse clicks at a simple network management protocol (SNMP) interface. PSNC projects a return on investment in three years (to be reduced if additional wavelengths are turned up ahead of schedule). More than 2,600 km of PIONIER became fully operational last year.
The Polish Optical Internet grew out of a national initiative to give Polish researchers the information and grid processing capabilities they require to accelerate achievement and more significantly cooperate in joint international efforts.

“The network worked from the first day, without any problems, special tuning, etc.,” reports Stroinski. “We had good specifications and deployment plans, and there were no installation problems. The costs have been exactly as we planned, and there have been no unexpected expenses.”

PIONIER’s designers ultimately hope to create a fully homogenous 10-Gbit/sec nationwide network capable of also supporting next-generation applications and services such as interactive broadband TV. To support foreseeable demand, the PIONIER backbone is slated for eventual upgrade from a single 10-Gbit/sec wavelength to four wavelengths that will provide an aggregate 40 Gbits/sec. Funding has already been secured through 2005.

“We are actively investigating various broadband access technologies, and no matter what technology we choose, the capacity demand in the network core will only increase,” adds Stroinski. “Having a scalable solution for optical transport that supports growth is a comforting thought.”

Christian Cehovin and Thomas Schneider are directors of business development and Alexa Schmidt is the director of corporate communications at ADVA Optical Networking (Munich, Germany).

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