On Your Network
Network users commonly must navigate a complicated maze of connectivity, all hidden from their direct control, to accomplish work on networks. In many cases, the tasks of science are physically separated.
Without visibility into what is happening on the network, fixing problems can be a random walk. To better regiment the process of debugging and to ensure a higher level of success, perfSONAR gives visibility to the nuances of each network. perfSONAR works best when there is coverage on all portions of a long path.
When all portions of the path have instrumentation, it is easier to debug, easier to operate, and easier for the base users of the network.
In Your Toolbox
Buzzwords and acronyms abound in technology. This environment is challenging when attempting to learn about a new product, especially when there are doubts about the purpose, longevity, maturity, security, and scalability of some piece of hardware or software. To sum it up in a single sentence:
perfSONAR is a software product to monitor networks for performance discrepancies, on an end-to-end basis, ensuring friction-free use for scientific applications.
In more verbose terms, perfSONAR is designed to tell you how certain use cases on the network (e.g. bulk data transfer, video and audio streaming) will perform between your site, and those of collaborators, aggregation networks, backbone networks, exchange points, or content providers.
This task is performed by installing a selection of monitoring tools to a local server that you have complete control over, performing basic configuration, and then picking the endpoints that others have already deployed to be used in test cases. In doing so each site gains a deeper understanding of the performance they can expect to reach others around the world, and in turn can then translate these measurements into an expectation for other activities such as data mobility. The resulting monitoring data can be integrated into visualizations, create alarms, or serve as a basis for providing network status to intelligent applications that use SDN.
Each day, perfSONAR is used at hudreds of institutions on thousands of systems and networks making millions of measurements. It is recommended by funding bodies and virtual organizations (VOs) as a federated and scalable solution to determining network performance. There are many things that network engineers and users cannot see due to the nature of network design and protocols. For instance, applications that are based on TCP will function even if there are problems in the underlying technology that are causing data loss or transmission errors. perfSONAR exposes the underlying behavior of the network by providing verifiable evidence of common network problems, and is able to help isolate and aide in the correction.
perfSONAR is a mature development effort borne of the Research and Education networking community that is only successful because of the interest an effort invested by the core partners and key stakeholders. Feedback is always valuable in determining what is and is not needed to address the challenges of scientific networking support.