DARPA-funded program makes cloud-to-cloud connectivity ‘elastic’

Connecting cloud systems to one another to improve load balancing and data backup can often take days to complete, depending on bandwidth and setup requirements. But a new proof-of-concept funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and led by scientists from AT&T, IBM and Applied Communication Sciences is shredding terabit-sized cloud network inter-connection into a sub-minute process by making that connection “elastic.”

Anticipating inter connectivity concerns as cloud computing was starting to rev its engine in 2006, DARPA launched the CORONET program — or more formally the Dynamic Multi-Terabit Core Optical Networks: Architecture, Protocols, Control and Management program — with a broad agency announcement from its Strategic Technology Office. The program set out to “develop the architecture, protocols, and control and management software for highly dynamic, multi-terabit global core optical networks with greatly enhanced performance, survivability and security” and “ultra-fast service set-up/tear-down as well as very fast recovery from multiple network failures,” according to the announcement.

After reaching its second phase of development, the program moved into the hands of larger telecommunications and technology companies as DARPA planned. AT&T, IBM and ACS completed their collaborative efforts this past May and are in the final phase of the project, bringing to life an elastic bandwidth model that permits the rapid provisioning necessary in the cloud in just seconds.

Essentially, the DARPA-funded project has made it possible to use network intelligence to request and access pools of connectivity from other cloud sources when needed and that scales back use when demand is no longer needed, rather than have to string together physical components to meet wide area network bandwidth demand.


“The DARPA CORONET program has created a truly innovative solution that will enable dynamic cloud services of the future,” Matt Goodman, a DARPA program manager, said in a statement. “By delivering highly efficient bandwidth sharing, this technology will significantly reduce costs for both carriers and cloud providers. It truly is a major step forward for the industry.”

The result for the potential users of the elastic cloud is a lower cost to access the bandwidth needed to power massive applications in a virtual environment.

As Douglas Freimuth, an IBM research senior technical staff member and master inventor, wrote in a blog post coinciding with the announcement of the technology: “For you and me, as individuals, more dynamic cloud computing means new applications we never dreamed could be delivered over a network – or applications we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”

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