Major Facilities and Sites


With its research partners, iCAIR is designing and developing StarLight, the optical STAR TAP, an advanced optical infrastructure and proving ground for network services optimized for high-performance applications. iCAIR is involved with numerous research projects centered on StarLight and related facilities. StarLight is being developed by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), iCAIR, and the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory, in partnership with Canada's CANARIE and Holland's SURFnet. The StarLight research participants are creating new methods and technologies to allow for a far greater degree of services and configuration flexibility than existing networks. StarLight provides tools, techniques, and technologies that allow for end-processes to control lightpaths dynamically, including those supporting 10 Gigabit flows. These mechanisms can be used to empower applications to dynamically adjust and optimize network resources to meet precise requirements.

The StarLight consortium is participating in the creation of a global proving ground in support of grid-intensive eScience applications, network performance measurement and analysis, and computing and networking technology evaluations. StarLight is also a co-location facility with enough space, power, air conditioning and fiber to allow its members to engage in next-generation optical network and application research and development activities. StarLight provides collaboration opportunities for advanced e-science capabilities, data mining, video streaming, caches, network monitoring and analysis, as well as optical switching and optical routing.

StarLight provides facilities and capabilities that allow for research and experimentation with the world's most advanced, high-performance networks, such as SURFnet, NetherLight, CANARIE's CA*net4, JGN 2, UKLight, CzechLight, NorthernLight, CERNnet, and other GLIF participants. StarLight evolved from the earlier implementation of STAR TAP (Science, Technology, and Research Transit Access Point), founded in 1997, which was established as the world's first international exchanged developed to support advanced digital communication services for worldwide scientific research communities.

Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF)

iCAIR is a founding member of the Global Lambda Integrated Facility, which is an international organization that is developing and promoting new methods and concepts related to lightpath (lambda) networking. This organization was established as a collaborative initiative among worldwide National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), consortia, corporations, and other institutions. Many of these entities operate facilities that support communication services based on flexible lightpath provisioning. The GLIF participants provide lightpaths internationally to support multiple research and development activities directed at creating new international communication services. As a global integrated facility, the GLIF supports data-intensive scientific research, optical middleware development, new types of management methods, and many testbed projects.

Global Open Lambda Exchange (GOLE)

iCAIR is participating with other members of the GLIF in the design and development of international facilities that support new services based on lightpaths, including autonomous peerings. This type of facility is a Global Open Lambda Exchange (GOLE). A prototype of such an exchange has been implemented at the StarLight facility.


Another important facility for iCAIR research is NetherLight, the GLIF Open Lightpath Exchange (GOLE) located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and its related 10 Gbps trans-Atlantic circuit that connects that optical infrastructure to Starlight. Both facilities are managed by the national SURFnet organization. NetherLight is an advanced open optical infrastructure and proving ground for network services, optimized for high-performance applications - especially those that require Grid infrastructure. iCAIR is participating in multiple research projects and demonstrations that utilize this facility, including many that involve labs at the University of Amsterdam.

Japan Gigabit Network II (JGN II)

iCAIR has been participating in research projects with the Japan Gigabit Network II, a major research and development program, established in Japan to design and implement the world's largest advanced communications testbed. The JGN2 testbed was created to explore advanced research concepts related to next generation applications, including advanced digital media using HD formats, network services at Layers 1 through 3, and new communications architecture, protocols, and technologies, including those related to large scale science and Grid computing. This testbed includes a 10 Gbps testbed lightpath from the T-Lex exchange in Tokyo to StarLight.


iCAIR also participates in experiments using UKlight, another important international research facility, which is part of the United Kingdom's e-science infrastructure. This facility consists of international 10 Gbps connections from London to StarLight in Chicago and NetherLight in Amsterdam and a national infrastructure that integrates UK's major university research institutions at 10 G among primary points of presence and international peering points. This facility support multiple large scale science projects.

Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development (GLORIAD)

Another iCAIR partner is the Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development initiative, which has implemented an international facility to support scientists world-wide with advanced networking services and technologies for enhanced communications and data exchange, active collaboration, and integrated processes. GLORIAD supports large scale applications support, communication services, large scale data transport, access to unique scientific facilities, including Grid environments, and specialized network based tools and technologies for diverse communities of scientists, engineers, and other researcher domains. GLORIAD is a partnership among the US, China, Russia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Korea.

National Lambda Rail (NLR)

Multiple iCAIR research experiments are being conducted on the National Lambda Rail, a US national distributed facility, which has a foundation consisting of leased optical fiber. This facility was deliberately designed and implemented as a facility not as a network. Consequently, it can support many different types of networks, including advanced experimental research networks. The NLR can support all of these networks using a common core infrastructure. Have of the capacity of the NLR is devoted to advanced research, related to fundamental technology research but also to such topics as new methods for supporting science applications.


Many GLIF concepts were derived from the earlier TransLight initiative, which established a global-scale experimental networking facility to support prototypes of the most aggressive e-science applications being developed. TransLight was the result of the NSF Euro-Link award, which funded high-performance connections between the US and Europe from 1999 through June 2005. TransLight, conceptualized in 2001 and implemented in April of 2003, was a global partnership among institutions -- organizations, consortia and National Research Networks (NRNs). A key goal was to provide high quality communication services to worldwide communities of researchers for scheduled, experimental use. TransLight became the basis for the GLIF and the Global LambdaGrid. TransLight consisted of multiple provisioned circuits among North America, Europe, and Asia via StarLight in Chicago. TransLight enabled Grid researchers to experiment with deterministic provisioning of dedicated circuits, and then compare results with standard and experimental aggregated Internet traffic. Methods tested and compared included moving large amounts of data, supporting real-time collaboration and visualization, and enabling globally distributed computing at rates that equal the fast proliferation of such facilities. This new cyberinfrastructure, built of lambda networks connecting distributed computing resources with advanced grid services, was used by programmers, networking engineers, electrical/computer engineers and computer scientists. These researchers addressed challenging research issues and developing innovative solutions for the development of a LambdaGrid of electronically and optically switched circuits and advanced grid services.


CANARIE, a key iCAIR research partner, has facilities at the StarLight exchange, including a core hub of CA*net4. CANARIE is Canada's advanced Internet development organization, a not-for-profit corporation that is supported by members, project partners and the national government. CANARIE has designed and implemented CA*net4, the world's most advanced national optical Internet research and education network. CANARIE is pioneering many new designs and methods for lightpath based networks.


The Optical Metro Network Initiative OMNI project was established to create a reference model for a wide-range of next generation metro communication services, based on advanced photonic technologies. OMNI is an inter-organizational cooperative research partnership. The original research partners included iCAIR, Nortel, SBC (now AT&T), the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Math and Computer Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory, and CANARIE. This project created the world's most advanced metro network testbed (OMNInet), based on leading-edge photonic technology, including lambda switching. On this large-scale optical metro testbed, the partnership has been conducting trials of photonic-based GE and 10GE services (providing speeds of 10 Gigabits per second). These services are high-performance, highly scalable, and manageable at all levels. These services are based on new types of photonic-based components, architecture and techniques that support multiple interconnected lightwave (lambda) paths within fiber strands. OMNInet employs Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM), which allows transmitting multiple light frequencies through a single fiber. Each frequency can simultaneously communicate data - substantially increasing the capacity of the fiber. The original optical switches were not commercial products, but unique designs based on MEMs based O-O-O devices.

OMNInet Optical Switch at StarLight

The OMNInet optical switch at StarLight is interconnected with multiple other types of equipment to allow flexible L1 and L2 interconnectivity. This core node is connected to a Grid cluster at that site as well as to other testbeds. OMNInet has used StarLight resources to extend experiments nationally and internationally.

OMNInet Optical Switch at Leverone

A new node has been established at the iCAIR lab facility (Leverone Data Communication Facility) located on the Northwestern University Chicago campus at 750 North Lake Shore Drive. As part of the original OMNInet metro area testbed, iCAIR implemented a photonic network node and related equipment at the Northwestern Leverone Data Communications Facility. This node had dedicated fiber extensions to the primary iCAIR labs that at the time were at the Research Park, to its distributed optical testbed node in the Technological Institute, and to the ECE Research Center for Photonic Communications and Computing. This node was replaced by the Chicago campus facility.

OMNInet Node at the University of Illinois at Chicago

The OMNInet node at the University of Illinois at Chicago allows for interconnection and access to the Electronic Visualization Lab there as well as to the Laboratory for Advanced Computing and the National Center for Data Mining.

OMNinet Node at 600/700 South Federal

The 600/700 South Federal facility in Chicago is one of metro areas's largest telco hotels. This node was placed there originally within the Chicago co-location facility of CANARIE, Canada's advanced high performance research network.

Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Technological Institute

iCAIR has distributed optical testbed facilities, Grid computational facilities, DWDM equipment, and dedicated dark fiber at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science within the Technological Institute. Currently, a plan is being developed to connect this facility with the other OMNInet nodes through new fiber that will connect the two Northwestern campuses.


iCAIR is a research participant in the OptIPuter project. The OptIPuter,named for its use of Optical networking, Internet Protocol, computer storage, processing and visualization technologies, is an envisioned infrastructure that will tightly couple computational resources over parallel optical networks using the IP communication mechanism. The OptIPuter exploits a new world in which the central architectural element is optical networking, not computers - creating "supernetworks". This paradigm shift requires large-scale applications-driven, system experiments and a broad multidisciplinary team to understand and develop innovative solutions for a "LambdaGrid" world. The goal of this new architecture is to enable scientists who are generating terabytes and petabytes of data to interactively visualize, analyze, and correlate their data from multiple storage sites connected to optical networks.

Distributed Optical Testbed (DOT)

iCAIR is a principal researcher in the DOT initiative. DOT is a Distributed Optical Testbed that is being designed and implemented by an inter-organizational cooperative partnership to facilitate the research and development of innovative techniques that require the efficient execution of distributed applications. The DOT research partners are creating innovative techniques required by high performance next generation applications, which are being designed to take advantage of new types of information technology infrastructure, including Grid computing, advanced middleware, such as Globus, and leading-edge optical networks.


iCAIR is participating in the EnLIGHTened research project, which is creating new methods for the dynamic, adaptive, coordinated and optimized use of networks connecting geographically distributed high-end computing and scientific instrumentation resources for faster real-time problem resolution. The EnLIGHTened project, established in 2005, is a collaborative interdisciplinary research initiative that seeks to research the integration of optical control planes with Grid middleware under highly dynamic requests for heterogeneous resources. Request for the coordinated resources are application, workflow engine, and aggregated traffic driven.


iCAIR is a founding partner of the I-WIRE initiative, the Illinois Wired/Wireless Infrastructure for Research and Education facility, a type of distributed research instrument based on an advanced optical network, funded by the State of Illinois originally to connect Argonne National Laboratory, National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Institute of Technology, Illinois Century Network, Northwestern University, University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago. This network has been extended to connect to multiple other locations in Illinois.

Metropolitan Research and Education Network (MREN)

iCAIR has regional connectivity through the Metropolitan Research and Education Network, an advanced regional high-performance broadband network. Although MREN's primary focus is on providing advanced digital communications for leading-edge research and educational applications, it also addresses a number of more general networking requirements. MREN is a collaborative effort undertaken as an interdisciplinary, interorganizational, cooperative partnership. MREN has core facility at the at StarLight.


iCAIR was a research partner in the EU-funded DataTAG project. The StarLight facility included a key node of the DataTAG project, which was one of several major international Grid development projects established both within the European Community, and in the US. These projects were created to work towards the common goal of providing transparent access to the massively distributed computing infrastructure that is needed to meet the challenges of modern data intensive applications. The DataTAG project created a large-scale intercontinental Grid testbed that focused upon advanced networking issues and interoperability between multiple intercontinental Grid domains, extending the capabilities of each and enhancing the worldwide program of Grid development. The project addressed issues that arise in high performance inter-Grid networking, including sustained and reliable high performance data replication, end-to-end advanced network services, and novel monitoring techniques. The project also directly addressed the issues of interoperability between the Grid middleware layers such as information and security services.


iCAIR was a participant in the EMERGE testbed project, a Department of Energy funded Science Grid project for designing, deploying and testing differentiated services on an IP/ATM Regional GigaPoP Network Interoperating with ESnet for Applications in Combustion, Climate Studies, and High-Energy Physics.

Northwestern University Networks

In addition to its dark fiber links, iCAIR is connected to the Northwestern campus network. The foundation of its network infrastructure consists of multiple interlinked GE circuits. Northwestern has plans to migrate to a 10GE core network. An OC-12 ATM ring connects its Evanston campus, a local carrier hub, its Chicago campus, and the MREN switch in Chicago (NAP). Through MREN, it is connected to national high-performance research networks, which link major research universities, government laboratories, and international research networks.

Last Updated: