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GÉANT releases GTS V7: Offering researchers a flexible, distributed testbed environment

Abstract Digital network communication digital concept

The GÉANT Testbeds Service (GTS) offers researchers virtual environments in which they can develop technological innovations without having to go through lengthy processes to put their testbed network in place. A researcher running an experiment can simply build a test topology by selecting the required resources from a graphical user interface. The system then sets up an automatically provisioned and virtual network for the user.

GTS is now a production service with pods deployed across eight European locations: London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Prague, Paris, Milan, Bratislava and Madrid. The service offers an environment for users to test their applications and create a virtual network using different types of resources:

• Virtual Machine
• Virtual Links
• Virtual Switches
• Bare Metal Servers

Via the intuitive GTS interface, users can create a virtual network themselves, leveraging the GÉANT connectivity services to dynamically create layer 2 services across the GÉANT backbone. Users can also specify (within their allocation) servers in designated locations in order to simulate real-world network performance or GTS can allocate Virtual Machines according to availability.

In April 2020 the latest iteration of GTS was released (Version 7) offering an improved user interface, faster deployments and improved onboarding of users. For example, users can now define a testbed topology then exactly replicate it to enable representative comparisons of new software or alternatively the Virtual Machine specifications can be adjusted to perform load testing comparisons. All of this can be accomplished through the user interface without the need to purchase or manage physical hardware. Users benefit from full admin
rights to the VMs used to enable custom configuration and a range of operating systems are available.

The recent updates have greatly enhanced the capability of GTS to support innovative research into networking and distributed application
development.

GTS In Action

The GÉANT (GN4-3) Project Work Package for Network Technologies & Services Development (WP6) has been using GTS extensively for various different tasks, including software development and testing. For example:

  • WP6 uses the GTS Service as a platform for continued development of the Service Provider Architecture (SPA).
  • WP6 is setting up a DTN testbed on GTS to investigate DTNrelated software tools and their performance.
  • WP6 is currently also working with the GÉANT Operations Centre on developing the GCS service (E2E L2 connectivity) in the GÉANT network infrastructure, where some of their components are tested in a GTS testbed before deployment in the production VMs.
  • WP6 also uses a GTS testbed for its incubator work on novel network service monitoring approaches built on top of Linux, Juniper and Cisco monitoring features, all installed on GTS, with a view to their applicability to NREN/R&E environments.
  • WP6 also considers GTS as an example of a virtual network environment in its investigations of future network architectures and their impact on network orchestration, automation and virtualisation.

The key advantage of GTS during the COVID-19 pandemic is that all hardware and connectivity is created and managed remotely without the need to visit or work in confined computer labs making it ideal for socially distanced development! Team members from around the world can collaborate on the platform from their home laptops without the need for complex and expensive hardware.

Case Study – SCION

The internet has grown over the past 30 years from a limited, low speed network largely centred around the USA to the massively  distributed ultrahigh-speed complex network we see today. Therefore, the fact that some of the core technologies have remained virtually unchanged yet still operable is a testament to those original designers of the networks and protocols. One of these protocols is BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) which allows network providers to exchange routing information and enables efficient cross-network
communication. In fact, BGP is one of the unsung heroes of the internet, enabling us to reach services hosted on other providers anywhere in the world. However, this venerable protocol is starting to show its age with the need to both increase its performance (including the ability to prioritise different routes according to the needs of the application) and to reduce the security threats that BGP faces (particularly DDoS and Spoofing attacks).

Enter SCION and GTS

SCION provides a path-aware and multipath communication architecture with transparent and verifiable security built in from the ground up. This can provide huge benefits to network providers faced with the complexity of current and future networks. However, in order to test a distributed high-performance network protocol, you need to build a high performance distributed network and be able to simulate a range of scenarios across that network. By using GTS, SCION is able to test and retest across a representative network without having to
build such a network and without risking live user data.

For more information about GTS, visit the GTS website.

For more information about SCION, visit: https://www.scionarchitecture.net/

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