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National LambdaRail Community Update

GENI's Cluster D Research Centers Interconnected by National LambdaRail (NLR)

Dynamic VLAN provisioning by NLR's Sherpa tool enables remote orchestration of complex experiments

Cypress, CA, April 12, 2010 –  GENI’s Cluster D projects are using the dynamic  VLAN provisioning tool, Sherpa, developed by National LambdaRail (NLR), over NLR’s Layer 2 switched Ethernet service, FrameNet, to interconnect all participating testbed networks.  As a result, resources managed by Duke University in Durham, NC, the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) in Chapel Hill, NC, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and soon Ohio State University in Columbus are now linked with each other and with the Starlight international exchange facility at Northwestern University in Chicago, effectively functioning as a single network resource for the GENI community.

Sherpa’s dynamic, multi-point VLAN capability enables GENI Cluster D participants to orchestrate complex, data-intensive experiments using geographically distributed resources.  At the recent GENI Engineering Conference hosted by Duke University and RENCI, RENCI Director of Network Research and Infrastructure Ilia Baldine, Duke University Professor of Computer Science Jeff Chase and other Cluster D team members demonstrated how researchers in one location can easily and quickly set up on demand a dedicated, experimental “slice” of a total, distributed network resource to meet the needs of a particular project  and then put those resources back into the experimental network system so that they become available to other researchers once the experiment is completed.   An on-demand Layer 2 network transported weather data from environmental sensors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to a virtual computer and analysis tools connected to the Breakable Experimental Network (BEN) node at Duke.  

 Screen shot 2010-04-01 at 11.23.00 AM 2

Sherpa Interface Example:  Setting up a VLAN From Seattle - Chicago - Jacksonville, FL


Baldine wrote the first ORCA driver module for Sherpa, which now makes it possible for all researchers using the ORCA control framework to take advantage of the full functionality of Sherpa, paving the way for other organizations which may have similar requirements for remote orchestration of experiments.

“With NLR, we have a national, research resource as a backbone and Sherpa gives us the easy to use, dynamic control and provisioning capabilities we need to make increasing use of GENI resources connected in North Carolina to BEN, with the other Cluster D testbeds across the country,” stated Baldine.

“NLR has supported GENI since it was launched with up to 30 Gbps across three service offerings,” said NLR President and CEO Glenn Ricart.  “We’re very pleased that GENI is leveraging our Sherpa capability to enable individual researchers to easily stitch together the network resources they need, drawing on data and computational power from geographically distributed virtual machines and networks.”

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, GENI, the Global Experiment for Network Innovations, is a virtual laboratory for exploring future internets at scale. GENI consists of four clusters organized around various control frameworks.  Cluster D uses ORCA, the Open Resource Control Architecture developed by Chase and the New Internet Computing Lab at Duke.  BEN was developed by a team at RENCI led by Baldine and is the test environment for ORCA.  

"Sherpa" is a guided, secure, interactive dynamic circuit configuration tool developed by network engineers working for NLR at the Global Research Network Operations Center (NOC) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.   The NLR Dynamic VLAN Service uses Sherpa to allow authorized users in the NLR community to easily and quickly provision, modify, enable, and disable dedicated or non-dedicated VLANs on FrameNet in real time on their own, without requiring intervention from the NLR NOC.

For more information on GENI Cluster D, ORCA/BEN and a video with Ilia Baldine describing how Sherpa is applied within the Cluster’s research, visit:

To learn more about NLR’s Sherpa tool and view a demonstration, see:


About National LambdaRail (NLR)

Owned and operated by the U.S. research and education community and dedicated to serving the needs of researchers and educators, NLR is the innovation platform for some of the world’s most demanding research projects and a wide range of public-private partnerships.  NLR’s coast-to-coast, high-performance network infrastructure offers unrestricted usage and bandwidth, a choice of cutting-edge network services and applications, and customized support for individual researchers and projects.  For more information, please visit

Media Contact

Kristina Scott, NLR, 650.678.9034,

Contact NLR

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To learn more about National LambdaRail, visit


National LambdaRail (NLR)
P.O. Box 1610, Cypress, CA 90630

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