International collaboration is a priority for Dutch education and research institutions. Researchers want to be able to share data securely at international level, and lecturers want to be able to exchange learning materials quickly across national borders. Institutions connected to SURFnet can use SURFinternet and SURFlichtpaden (light paths) to facilitate this process. In this blog post, I explain how we have set up our international connectivity within Europe and to the Americas, Asia and Africa.
Dutch education and research institutions can use SURFinternet or SURFlichtpaden for national and international network traffic. For both services, we are able to provide bandwidth of up to 100 Gbit/s.
In many cases, international destinations can be accessed via the standard Internet. Students, lecturers, employees and researchers use upstream providers and peers via their institutional network and SURFinternet. That said, the requirements our target group makes in terms of international connectivity is not always able to be met by upstream providers and peers alone. SURFlichtpaden can provide institutions with international network connections that enable dedicated capacity to be made available for worldwide collaboration in the field of education and research. This allows private links to partners to be set up.
NetherLight, SURFnet’s open light path exchange in Amsterdam, is the hub for SURFlichtpaden with international destinations in particular. Many European and intercontinental connections converge within NetherLight. For redundancy reasons, GÉANT’s open exchanges in London and Paris are also used.
SURFinternet uses a number of Internet exchanges, e.g. AMS-IX and NL-IX. These exchanges also provide access to many other IP networks. Networks over which large amounts of traffic are exchanged are connected directly.
I explain below how SURFnet has configured its connectivity by continent.
SURFnet itself maintains a number of Cross Border Fiber (CBF) systems that connect the Netherlands to other European countries using high-capacity links. These are DWDM systems, which SURFnet typically lights with wavelengths of 40 Gbit/s and 100 Gbit/s. CBFs are operational between Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris-Geneva (CERN), Amsterdam-London, Amsterdam-Hamburg and Maastricht-Hasselt (Belgium). Many other European NRENs also have access to such systems. Open exchanges such as NetherLight enable us to connect our networks to each other over the various CBFs.
The pan-European network GÉANT connects the European NRENs, and ensures good connectivity with countries in Europe that we are unable to access through CBFs.
Submarine fibre optic cables lit by commercial providers are installed between Europe and North America. SURFnet purchases capacity in these systems as part of the Advanced North Atlantic (ANA) consortium together with CANARIE, GÉANT, Internet2 and NORDUnet. The consortium currently comprises 4x 100 Gbit/s transatlantic circuits. Since these transatlantic links have been set up on geographically distinct routes, the risk of total failure is small. If, however, major issues arise within the ANA consortium, we can fall back on the agreements with US-based ESnet, which has also leased multiple transatlantic circuits, and NEAAR. ANA and ESnet have agreed to provide mutual backup for each other’s services in the event of problems.
International links can be forwarded via NetherLight, and the above light paths can be connected to open exchanges in North America, such as StarLight in Chicago, MAN LAN in New York and MOXY in Montreal.
Middle East and Asia
Amsterdam is an attractive location for connecting networks on account of the large number of education and research networks and cloud providers in site and due to the presence of AMS-IX. This is why research networks from Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India have chosen to lease international transmission capacity to NetherLight from commercial partners that offer capacity of this kind. By the same token, capacity is available to access these countries directly from Amsterdam.
Of the African countries, Egypt has a direct redundantly configured link with NetherLight. Connections to South Africa currently go via GÉANT Open in London, but they will shortly go via NetherLight as well. We access all the other African countries via GÉANT.
Connections to South America can be set up via North America. From there they can, for example, follow the Miami-Brazil route en route to their final destination. Within the GÉANT project, work is underway on a direct transatlantic link between Portugal and Fortaleza in Brazil. This 100 Gbit/s connection is due to be completed in 2019.
To increase the reach and reliability of the international network, SURFnet is collaborating with various international partners and organisations. Examples include partnerships with GÉANT, GLIF and GNA. Organisations such as SURFnet can play their part by serving as a hub and providing capacity across specific parts of the international network. Not all locations in the world can be accessed via high-capacity lines. If we receive an enquiry about a location that is not connected, we investigate the options.