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SCinet and the Road to the SC Conference

scinet road

Every year, during the annual SC Conference, SCinet puts on a week-long show—not of entertainment, but of connectivity. This show consists of building and maintaining the most powerful and advanced network on Earth, providing unparalleled internet connectivity for SC attendees and participants. But as one could imagine, building the most advanced network on the planet does not come easy. Hours upon hours of hard work from dedicated volunteers are required to design and build the conference network. Experts spanning different fields come together to tackle the physical aspects of the job, while different contributors provide state-of-the-art hardware, software, and services, all in the name of achieving this lofty goal. And in the end, it always pays off. SCinet steps up to deliver the most powerful network in the world at each SC Conference, and this year will be no different.

Unsurpassed Speed

INext is not the only upgrade coming to the conference this year. For SC23, SCinet will provide an astounding 6.71 Tbps (terabits per second). This continues the SCinet tradition of building bigger and faster networks each and every year. The network speed for SC22 was 5.01 Tbps, while SC19 touted 4.22 Tbps of wide area network capacity. The jump from last year’s 5.01 Tbps to 6.71 Tbps this year is no small feat, and providing such network speeds will allow SC to run smoothly even when showcasing the capabilities of high-performance applications and technologies.

6.71 Tbps

Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

Julie Locke

SCinet Fiber Team Chair

A major part of creating SCinet’s advanced network involves all things fiber—providing it, installing it, repairing and maintaining it, etc. Depending on the conference location, anywhere from 30-70 miles of fiber optic cables need to be installed to support internet connectivity during SC. SC22 required 37 miles of fiber, while SC19—which took place in Denver (same as this year)—needed 66 miles! Providing this level of fiber infrastructure requires an enormous amount of labor. Numerous volunteers are required during set-up week, each of which will work a minimum of 35 hours. Even after installation, maintenance and repair can require a lot of time and effort. When discussing the fiber requirements for SC22, Julie Locke, SCinet Fiber Team Chair, noted that they had at least 21 fiber repairs, some of which had more than one location broken that needed to be spliced. Dealing with this much fiber is certainly a labor-intensive process. But in the end, it’s worth it. The SCinet Fiber Team knows what it takes to support the world’s most powerful network, and they are willing to put in the effort to make it happen.

How Much Power?

Obviously, providing such a powerful network to the 10,000+ attendees of SC involves large levels of power consumption. Jay Harris, SCinet Power Team Co-Chair, broke it down like this: 

“The SCinet NOC (Network Operations Center) over the last several years consumes around 32-35kW of power at any given time. To put that in perspective, in less than 2 hours the NOC uses as much power as a 2000 square foot home would use in an entire 24-hour day, or reversing that, we use about as much power as 12 average-sized homes to power the network.”

Harris went on to note that this figure does not include the Deployable Network Operations Centers (DNOCs), the conference router, or the “Roady Rack,” which collectively consume another 5-8kW of power.

Jay Harris

SCinet Power Team Co-Chair

The Debut of INext

Greg Veldman

SCinet Architecture Team Co-Chair

SC23 is heralding in lots of change, but one of the most exciting new developments is the deployment of Intranet Next or INext. INext is a revision of a primary organizational tool used by SCinet known as the Intranet. This tool tracks many details of SCinet, such as information about pieces of physical equipment and where they should be installed, DNS names, and WAN circuits. Building SCinet without the Intranet (or a similar tool) would be next to impossible. That being said, the Intranet tool had begun showcasing major issues, and so INext was born. Greg Veldman, SCinet Architecture Team Co-Chair and long-time volunteer for SCinet, gives more details on the project:

“For SC23, we’re deploying Intranet Next, or INext. It is a complete rewrite of the Intranet tool from the ground up. The previous generation of this tool was not performing up to current technological standards. One of its major shortcomings was that it had no API nor any good way to interact with it programmatically. In an age of heavy automation, that was starting to present a real problem to the work of planning and building SCinet. It was also code that was more than fifteen years old, written using a framework that was no longer supported, and was starting to become very difficult to maintain after years of changes and updates based on shifting requirements.”

The SCinet team is excited to see how INext performs at SC23. Its implementation has been a multi-year effort involving members from multiple SCinet teams, all of whom are volunteers.

Get Involved with SCinet

SCinet happens thanks to individual volunteers giving their time, and HPC-related companies or institutions contributing materials and services. As a volunteer, you’ll join more than 180 professionals from around the globe working together to design, deliver, install, and operate SCinet at SC. Our team members come from educational institutions, government agencies, high-performance computing sites, research and education networks, equipment vendors, and telecommunications carriers.

As a SCinet contributor, your organization participates by donating equipment, software, or services needed to build and support the network each year for the conference. We invite new and returning contributors to participate in SCinet.

Learn more about how to get involved in SCinet for SC24 and beyond. You can volunteer, contribute, or both!

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