Press Archive

NSF Awards NLANR Group at UCSD $2.08 Million for Measurement and Analysis of Internet Infrastructure

Published 05/22/1998

For more information, contact:
Jenniffer Woodson, 619-534-1290, <>

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO -- The National Science Foundation ( NSF) has awarded $2.08 million over 30 months to the University of California, San Diego ( UCSD) to monitor and analyze the continent-wide research network that is a key component of the next generation of Internet technologies. The award establishes the Measurement and Operations Analysis Team (MOAT) as a formal group within the National Laboratory for Applied Networking Research ( NLANR) to analyze network traffic patterns and traffic behavior, evaluate service models, and conduct research to enhance the NSF's very high performance Backbone Network Service ( vBNS).

Located on the UCSD campus at the San Diego Supercomputer Center ( SDSC), the NLANR/MOAT group will measure and analyze vBNS traffic statistics to conduct network performance analysis and will continue NLANR's efforts to promote the continuing development and deployment of related measurement and analysis tools and techniques.

"We would like to understand the workload -- the traffic signature -- of the network," said Hans-Werner Braun, principal investigator of the NLANR/MOAT effort and former PI of the original NLANR program and of the NSFNET program at Merit. "Understanding the intricacies of Internet traffic patterns and characterizing workload is fundamental to our ability to design and implement next-generation networks."

As the original Internet became congested with commercial and private traffic, the vBNS was created by the NSF and implemented by MCI Telecommunications Corporation as a high-performance data conduit among the nation's premier research and engineering organizations. The technologies developed for the vBNS are expected to lead to the "Internet of the future," as exemplified by the Clinton administration's "Next Generation Internet" initiative. Data transfer on the vBNS already is about 100 times as fast as on the commercial Internet, and soon will quadruple in speed.

Established in 1995, NLANR originally was a collaborative effort among the initial five vBNS sites that provided network engineering, technical support, and coordination to NSF-supported supercomputer center connections and to remote users. The vBNS network is expanding to serve nearly 100 universities and research institutions.

"As the vBNS has grown to include substantial connections to university campuses, NLANR activities must also expand to encompass support for the new users, sites and applications as well as continued measurement and testing of an expanded network," said George Strawn, NSF division director for Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research.

NLANR has other components -- a group at Carnegie Mellon University provides engineering support to campuses, and a group at the University of Illinois provides end-user support for applications. These activities also involve NLANR staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The new award allows NLANR to extend its prior research at SDSC on traffic measurement and analysis.

Braun will lead a team of engineers, programmers, and database experts at SDSC in the acquisition, storage, and analysis of vBNS and Internet traffic data and in the development and deployment of hardware and software tools. Their activities will lead to neutral, third-party verification of vBNS performance and to early identification of problems with the vBNS or associated connected networks. The NLANR/MOAT group's efforts will enable network engineers and administrators to maximize the efficiency of existing networks and to design future high-performance networks.

NLANR/MOAT's principal activities include:

  • Deploying flow monitors and conducting measurements at key sites, particularly vBNS aggregation points (at GigaPOPs, for example). In cooperation with MCI, NLANR personnel have developed and are deploying small computer-based monitors that record and analyze the packet traffic through optical fiber networks without interrupting or interfering with the flow of messages.
  • Conducting performance measurements on connections to the vBNS. Basic performance measurements will be collected for all sites in the NSF's High-Performance Connections sites and selected exchange points by mid-1998, and will be expanded to include selected vBNS Partner Institution sites several months later. For comparison purposes, measurements will be taken over both vBNS and commercial Internet routes.
  • Promoting the development, testing, and deployment of related measurement and analysis tools. These include software for analysis of message traffic flows by type (such as program data, images, and real-time audio), modeling the network and simulating its response to predict its performance under various loads, and visualization of its results to allow complex information patterns to be more easily understood. Visualization tools under development and deployment include MapNet, Manta Ray (which depicts the MBONE), and Plankton (which depicts the worldwide cache mesh topology and cache performance).
  • Publishing reports and alerts on the state of the vBNS. NLANR/MOAT will make available statistical analyses and summaries -- for example, analyses of trends related to Internet traffic flows and traffic performance statistics, particularly those relating to new protocols and services. Various popular datasets will be routinely analyzed, graphically depicted, and posted daily to the NLANR/MOAT website during 1998, and users will be able to interactively query the database and develop their own analysis reports and plots/graphics based on user-defined criteria. Automated scripts will be used to generate alerts to the vBNS Network Operations Center and to other NLANR groups if performance problems are detected. NLANR/MOAT staff will work with MCI and the other NLANR staff to define the alert parameters.

NLANR/MOAT will continue NLANR's tradition of collaboration, coordinating its efforts with related development activities and expanding its research to encompass all of the NSF's High-Performance Connection sites. NLANR/MOAT will team with UCSD's Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis ( CAIDA) to compare network performance and traffic behavior on the vBNS with that of the commercial Internet and to continue the development and deployment of advanced traffic measurement, analysis, and visualization tools. NLANR/MOAT will participate in several group efforts, including development of an Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) testbed on the vBNS with MCI/vBNS staff and other NLANR sites, and MBONE/multicast development with MCI and Xerox PARC.

For additional information on NLANR/MOAT, see on the World Wide Web or contact Jenniffer Woodson, 619-534-1290, <>. Further information on the other groups and activities of NLANR is available through, and information about the vBNS can be found at

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is a research unit of the University of California, San Diego. SDSC is sponsored by the National Science Foundation through the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure and by other federal agencies, the State and University of California, and private organizations. For additional information about SDSC, see and, or contact Ann Redelfs at SDSC, 619-534-5032, <>.

More about the vBNS and NLANR

Just a few short years ago, the Internet was a dream come true for researchers at universities, government sites, and research centers. But the network's relatively slow speed (by the standards of today's technology), combined with the congestion from messages among the estimated 60 million users of the Internet and the World Wide Web, make it inadequate to support leading-edge research. To remedy this, the vBNS was started by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and implemented by MCI Telecommunications Corporation as a means of ensuring throughput between the nation's research and engineering organizations.

Begun in 1995, the vBNS is a five-year project with an NSF investment of $50 million. Connections are approved based on scientific and technical merit, and use is limited to research applications. This sophisticated telecommunications network currently runs at 622 million bits per second and is expected to operate at 2.4 billion bits per second by the year 2000. (For comparison, a typical personal computer modem transmits at 28,800 bits per second.) The vBNS is expected to always stay several steps ahead of commercially available networking.

The network's high throughput capacity allows scientists to collect and share large amounts of data, to collaborate better across large distances, and to run complex equipment from remote sites. The ability to share data and equipment helps scientists studying everything from atoms to galaxies. Experiments in some fields produce enormous amounts of data, and sharing this information among researchers is beyond the capacity of the Internet. A single brain scan image, for example, may represent 100 gigabytes of information, and integrated ecological surveys of planet Earth produced from satellite, airborne, and ground-based sensors can be even larger.

"The vBNS is a facility -- like a laboratory or a supercomputer center -- that will accelerate science in all disciplines as well as push the limits of networking technology and applications," said George Strawn, director of NSF's Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research division.

SDSC is a world leader in "transparent supercomputing," in which applications run on a supercomputer while a researcher gives commands and receives results through a desktop computer's Web browser. In the NSF's National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, researchers at SDSC and UCSD are working in collaboration with scientists at the University of Virginia, the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland, and other sites to create a metacomputer, which harnesses the power of many computers at different locations to operate as a single enormous system. Both of these capabilites require wide-area networking at extraordinarily high data transfer rates. The vBNS is key to making these capabilities a reality.

The National Laboratory for Applied Network Research (NLANR) is a collaborative effort initiated in early 1995 among the five NSF-sponsored supercomputing centers -- the Cornell Theory Center (CTC) in New York, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) at Carnegie Mellon University, and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). It is funded by the Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research (ANIR) Division of the National Science Foundation.

The specific work performed under the NLANR agreement includes technical and engineering support and overall coordination of the vBNS connections at the five supercomputing centers, support of NSF High Performance Connections (HPC) sites, as well as testing and measurement of the vBNS and related Internet performance characteristics. During 1997, NSF and MCI broadened the focus of the vBNS to include its use as a "leading-edge but stable" platform to enable development and use of high performance applications by the broader academic research community. Under this definition, the vBNS user community was expanded from the original five supercomputer centers to an anticipated 100 HPC sites plus the vBNS partner institutions.

In response to these moves, NLANR institutions worked with NSF to reassess, extend, and focus its support activities. As described in NLANR's FY1997 Program Plan, NLANR institutions began to reorganize their activities in 1997 to emphasize three functional areas: UCSD/SDSC retaining responsibility for measurement and operations analysis; CMU assuming a lead in end-to-end engineering support; and NCSA assuming a lead in applications-related user support. UCSD also retains the lead responsibility for the NLANR Cache Hierarchy under separate grants. The NLANR cache effort includes participation of the other supercomputer centers and approximately 1,100 caches in 40 countries.