GLIF – striving towards a high-performance on-demand network

If you were passing through the Mezzanine in the Main Building a couple of weeks ago, you probably noticed the large tiled panel display showing an ultra-high resolution visualization model of dark matter, developed by Cosmogrid. The display was one of the highlights of the 10th Annual Global Lambda Grid Workshop demo session, together with the first ever transfer of over 35 Gbit/second from one PC to another between the SARA Computing Centre in Amsterdam and CERN.


GLIF display.

The transfer of such large amounts of data at this speed has been made possible thanks to the GLIF community's vision of a new computing paradigm, in which the central architectural element is an end-to-end path built on optical network wavelengths (so called lambdas). You may think of this as an on-demand private highway for data transfer: by using it you avoid the normal internet exchange points and “traffic jams”.
GLIF is a virtual international organization managed as a cooperative activity, with ‘participants’ rather than ‘members’, a lightweight governance structure, and administrative support from TERENA (the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association). CERN is part of this community, and the IT Department is following all developments with great interest.

“This network has the potential to become an important infrastructure for sending data between Tier 1s and Tier 2s, and the GLIF network is a resource that CERN could very well tap into to gain access to a high-service, predictable-performance, on-demand network” explains David Foster, Deputy Head of the IT Department. “The SARA-to-CERN data transfer is a demonstration of what's to come. It's pushing the state of the art in terms of data transfer”. For the demonstration, equipment from Ciena and Extreme Networks was used, together with a 40Gbit/s lambda connection between Netherlight in Amsterdam and CERNLight, built on a jointly owned dark fibre between Geneva and Amsterdam.

"CERN was an excellent host for the 10th GLIF Global LambdaGrid Workshop, a two-day event which brought together almost 100 leading users and providers of research networking. The close presence of many advanced and demanding users from the CERN community created the perfect environment for the participants to push back the frontiers in lambda networking again, as evidenced by several successful demonstrations and many inspiring talks and discussions", said Kees Neggers of SURFnet, Chair of the Governance and Growth Working Group.

The GLIF network is open to anybody sharing the vision of optical interconnection of different facilities and who voluntarily contributes network resources (e.g. equipment, lambdas) or actively participates in relevant activities. For more information on GLIF and the proceedings of the Workshop, please visit and




by Kristina Gunne