North Atlantic Ring (ANA-200G)

“With the transoceanic market for 100 gigabit/s transmission not ready yet, we ended up creating our own 100 gigabit/s alien wave between Amsterdam and New York City with the help of one provider and one equipment manufacturer,” said Erik-Jan Bos, project manager of the ANA200G project. ANA-200G lets researchers in Europe and North America collaborate over a network with a bandwidth of two times 100 gigabit/s. Lessons learned from the project help develop an architecture for a global high-speed research network. 

The ANA project started in 2012 when NORDUnet and other NRENs (National Research and Education Networks) were actively planning the next step for connections across the North Atlantic Ocean. They asked several network providers about their ability to deliver 100 Gbit/s bandwidth across the ocean.

“They answered that they had no current plans because there was no market demand for it yet. So we had to create the network ourselves,” said Erik-Jan Bos, NORDUnet. He is the project manager for the ANA projects.

Others in the NREN community tried to run a procurement process. The process confirmed that the market for transoceanic 100 gigabit/s transmission was not ready yet.

NORDUnet and its partners did not want to deploy cables under the ocean themselves. Instead, they contacted several providers, among them Tata Telecommunications, who already had fiber-optic cables across the Atlantic Ocean, to check if they were willing to experiment with the NRENs. Tata agreed to grant NORDUnet and its partners access to one of their cables using an alien wave.

The equipment supplier Ciena supplied the 100 gigabit/s equipment needed. And then the trial was ready. A connection between Open Exchange Points in Amsterdam and New York City was established. They called it ANA-100G – the Advanced North Atlantic 100G Pilot.

One day before the TERENA Networking Conference began in 2013 the system was working. The pilot system ran from the middle of 2013 to October 2014.

Pilot was single point of failure

“We got the system to work well, but it was of course a single point of failure. If the transatlantic cable was cut, which happened a number of times, all its users lost connectivity. So we wanted to build a ring topology to make the network more resilient,” said Erik-Jan Bos.

To extend the connection into a ring another 100 Gbit/s connection across the ocean was established. The endpoints were connected with the endpoints of the original ANA-100G in North America and Europe, now using four Open Exchange Points.

ANA-200G went into full production in January 2015.

“When the project began NORDUnet had two 10 gigabit/s connections to North America. We anticipated the need for a third connection in 2015. Now we have 200 gigabit/s at a lower price than three 10 gigabit/s connections would have cost us,” said Erik-Jan Bos.

Building a global architecture

He and his colleagues at NORDUnet, Internet2, CANARIE and SURFnet have gathered valuable experience during the ANA-200G project. Those learning lessons are fed into a research project, the Global Network Architecture program (GNA).

“In the GNA program we look at all the many issues when building a global high-speed network for research and education: Technical, financial, policy, legal and operations issues. A project similar to ANA-200G is under way between the US and Brazil, those lessons will also be valuable for the GNA program,” said Erik-Jan Bos. He is the co-chair for the GNA project.