OIT Network Engineer Scott Oung recently traveled to Salt Lake City to work on behalf of UT Dallas to assist in the setup the network used for the Super Computing 2016 conference.
Interview conducted by Divya Narayanan
D: What do you do here at the Office of Information Technology?
Scott: I’m one of the network engineers at UTD. My duties here are to make sure the network is up and the network connections to the internet are working. I also work with firewalls, so I’m usually available to assist with any network ports that need to be opened as well as virtual private network “VPN” connections. We have network connections to a few other entities and the remote access VPN is something I work with as well. Any upgrades or maintenance that needs to be done will be handled by one of the network engineers.
D: Tell me about the conference.
Scott: It’s called the SC16, which stands for Super Computing 2016 and it is a international level conference for high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis. The SC conference series started in 2007 and it brings together top companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel while showcasing high end research efforts. Many of the largest companies and researchers were there to exhibit how they are able to process data intensive research. NASA was an exhibitor and it was interesting to see all of their Physics research and all the data required to advance the research. The thing about this convention is that the network infrastructure is known as one of the fastest in the world during the exhibit based upon all the terabits per second that are needed. The SC16 network was able to reach 3.14 terabits per second (as far as we know a world record) at one point and the network was able to support those requirements. We’re talking about 40x 100 gigbits per second network circuits going out to different parts of the world. Also on the exhibit hall floor we were able to set up a link between the CalTech booth and the Starlight booth, the link ran a 1 terabit per second of bandwidth. Over the 1 Tbps link some interesting research was demonstrated where peak bandwidths were measured at around 900 gigabits per second.
D: Where was it? How long did you stay?
Scott: It was in Salt Lake City this year at the Salt Palace convention center venue and the convention is a week long. If you are volunteering then the whole event requires about a four weeks. One of our directors Gi Vania was a part of the SCInet team which builds and manages the conference and our branding was placed on the main SCInet NOC area with all of the other great supporting computational research based institutions. The gear used to create the networking involved was valued at around 32 million dollars.
D: What were you specifically involved in?
Scott: I was involved in Circuit Testing. The network had over 40 WAN circuits and my duty there was to test the circuits, coordinate service resolution by joining into conferences with top service providers. Together we would test for any errors and related issues. We used four various 100 gigabit per second traffic testing generators to generate network traffic by plugging it into one side of our circuit, we would insert a soft loopback or have the other side insert a hard loopback, the scenario tests how much of the traffic comes back which gauges efficiency. We made sure the amount of data transmitted would return back in a reasonable manner thus ensuring a good connection and great experience. When required we would work directly with fiber optic components which required evaluation with special tools, fiber scopes and fiber cleaners.
D: What did the conference change about your perspective with regards to work or your field?
Scott: The SC16 conference did a great job of introducing a whole new world of high data-intensive networking. There was a lot of equipment that I got to work with there that I never get exposed to here at UTD, equipment that are used at top service provider facilities like AT&T, Verizon, Level 3, Internet 2 and Centurylink. The network set up at the Salt Palace convention center was one of the fastest and highest functioning in the world so that was quite interesting. The various SCInet teams were able to connect all the different equipment from different vendors which is very challenging but that is probably why it was so powerful.
D: Have you been to this conference before? Do you plan to go again?
Scott: No, this was my first SC conference. Yes I would like to go again! The next SC conference SC17 is in Denver and the SC18 conference the year after is going to be in Dallas. UTD is planning a bigger involvement in the SC18 Dallas conference which will be nice. The conference involves quite an impressive network, amazing research from all over the world, an amazing group of people who are the best in their field and overall a great experience!
D: Yes, I would love to see that too! Our school seems like the perfect fit for this type of event.