New ESnet Portal Provides Real Time Insight into Network’s Inner Workings

User-friendly portal to help isolate and resolve network performance issues to improve science productivity

MyESnet portal gives overview of network traffic

August 10, 2011

As science becomes increasingly data-driven and collaborative across geographic borders, researchers’ dependence on fast and reliable networks is growing. Until now, researchers as well as the IT staff that support their institutions have had limited ability to understand the performance of the various networks they rely on. Network performance issues can significantly impede scientists’ ability to perform their research and effectively collaborate with their colleagues worldwide.

To address this important issue, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) has today launched MyESnet, a live online portal offering DOE Office of Science researchers and IT staff a wide range of customized tools intended to greatly improve their ability to understand network issues in real time.

Managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ESnet delivers the high-bandwidth, reliable backbone network connections that link thousands of scientists and technical staff at over 40 DOE Office of Science laboratories and research facilities. ESnet also connects DOE scientists to their collaborators at universities and other research institutions around the world.

“ESnet’s mission is to provide the necessary infrastructure that allows scientists to rapidly exchange and analyze the petabytes of data produced by their experiments with the goal of significantly expediting scientific output,” said Steve Cotter, head of ESnet.

Connecting researchers to their colleagues or their data at other institutions often involves at least three independently owned and operated networks - typically many more. For example, linking a researcher at Argonne National Lab to a collaborator at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab involves both labs’ local networks as well as the ESnet backbone network. A small problem in any piece of that path could degrade a researcher’s application.

“Our users have long requested easy to use tools that could help them better understand the network environment to ensure applications are operating with the highest performance possible from end to end, researcher to researcher,” Cotter said.

ESnet has worked for many years to address these complicated network performance issues by building various tools, which have been traditionally designed for use by network engineers.

“MyESnet takes a significant leap forward by integrating these rich set of performance tools and services into a single, well designed interface that is very user friendly not only for the IT experts but for actual users in the science communities we serve.” said Greg Bell, ESnet’s Chief Information Strategist. “Today’s initial launch represents just the first step in a planned long-term roadmap for the MyESnet portal which will continue to add more robust functionality and tools over time.”

The portal’s initial dashboard provides a bird’s-eye view of the local area networks of the DOE facilities connected by ESnet, including their traffic patterns and system status. MyESnet also provides direct links to ESnet’s maintenance calendar.

Additional initial features include:

  • A high-level view of ESnet-connected site status;
  • Visualizations of the total traffic that enters and exits a given ESnet site;
  • Information on how each site connects to ESnet (both in terms of physical interfaces and peerings);
  • Ranked “top talkers” list designed for use by the site networking staff to highlight the largest data flows on the network;
  • The ESnet maintenance calendar for viewing past and upcoming network outages;
  • “Sites of Interest” which allows users or IT staff to quickly access information about sites they are interested in;
  • A matrix showing the availability for all ESnet sites for the last 12 months.

"The portal provides instant visibility into network utilization." said Linda Winkler, Senior Network Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory. “I don't have the capability to look for this information anywhere else and we don't have time or resources to do this ourselves. It’s great that ESnet is doing this."

As more and more requirements are gathered from the community, ESnet intends to continue to significantly augment and improve the portal services and tools. In that spirit, MyESnet will soon add a tool to make it easier for the user community to suggest, discuss, and rank suggestions for ESnet including changes and improvements to the MyESnet portal. The feature will allow users to follow ongoing discussion, check back for new developments, and post feedback.

A major focus of development over the next year will be centered around topology and topology visualization. This will enable users to see how sites connect to ESnet, provide network utilization integrated into the topology view, display what paths traffic takes from sites to user specified endpoints and the overall layout of the ESnet backbone. Tools to help with performance debugging as well as other specialized features to enable the set-up of dedicated end-to-end network connections using ESnet’s OSCARS, the On-Demand Secure Circuits and Reservation System will also be added. Lastly, the portal will include an interface to the ESnet trouble ticketing system as well as a knowledge base.

For an explanatory screencast and demo of MyESnet, visit:

Feedback can also be provided via email: