ESnet: Networking at the Speed of Science

In 1986, the idea of a unified network that allowed people to easily connect with colleagues, facilities and data centers was still a dream. At the time, networking was confined to specialized networks created to service targeted research communities. One of those pioneers is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Sciences Network, better known as ESnet.

Although officially formed in 1986, ESnet’s roots stretch back to the mid-1970s, when staff at the CTR Computer Center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory installed four acoustic modems on a borrowed Control Data Corp. 6600 computer. ;xNLx;;xNLx;The center was soon renamed the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center and the network was known as MFEnet. By 1977, MFEnet connected users in 13 states with the center. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Since those days, the network now known as ESnet has marked many milestones and is today one of the world’s premier networks supporting science research around the globe. In its decades of operation, ESnet has also developed and deployed a number of tools and technologies to advance the state of networking and become a leading contributor to the international networking community.

1977-03-23 00:00:00

On the Origins of MFEnet

To allow fusion researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab in New Jersey to access the Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center in California, MFEnet is created -- the forerunner of ESnet.

1980-09-15 00:00:00

Satellite Links Replace Landlines

American Satellite Corp. is selected by MFEnet to replace unreliable landlines used by researchers to connect with NERSC (then called NMFECC). The new satellite links go on line in 1981, providing connections to the computing center.

1982-09-30 00:00:00

Logon Reach Extended

MFEnet now allows log on from any terminal to any NMFECC main computer.

1982-12-30 00:00:00

MIT, Three More Sites Added to Network

MIT is among three sites added to the center network. Universities accounted for 27 percent of NMFECC’s computing resource users. The major users — Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge national laboratories, General Atomics and Princeton Plasma Physics Lab — used 64 percent of the resources, with the remainder going to other labs.

1984-07-01 00:00:00

MFEnet Connects 3,000 Users

MFEnet connects 3,000 users to the center’s computers and file systems, courtesy of two large satellite dishes outside the facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

1985-07-01 00:00:00

Direct Links to Japan

Direct links for moving data are established with the Japanese Plasma Physics Institute in Nagoya.

1985-09-01 00:00:00

138 Customer Sites Served

By 1985, MFEnet serves 138 sites with network traffic averaging more than 300 million characters of data per day.

1985-10-01 00:00:00

ESnet Proposed

Dr. Alvin Trivelpiece, head of DOE’s Office of Energy Research, recommends MFEnet be combined with HEPnet, a network supporting High Energy Physics research, to become ESnet.

1986-10-07 00:00:00

ESnet is Officially Launched

A formal proposal for creating the Energy Sciences Network is approved and ESnet is released. Responsibility for operating the new network is assigned to NMEFCC. Jim Leighton is named head of ESnet.

1986-11-08 22:59:36

Workshop on Future of Intersite Networking

A two-day workshop at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory focuses on “The Future of Intersite Networking,” including the role of commercial networks and consolidating existing networks.

1987-01-01 22:59:36

Intersite and International Networking, but no Interplanetary...yet

In his annual review of network activities, ESnet head Jim Leighton notes that there are ongoing discussions of intra-agency networking, inter-agency networking and international networking, but not interplanetary networking. “To date, we have not received any responses from beings on other planets, but interest remains high.”

1987-04-17 00:00:00

Satellite Links Upgraded to 56Kbps and 112 Kbps

Dual satellite links connect General Atomics, and Los Alamos, Argonne and Oak Ridge national labs at 56Kbps speeds, while connectivity to the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab is upgraded to 112Kbps.

1987-07-17 00:00:00

First Networking Requirements Outlined for Research Programs

The ESnet Steering Committee publishes a 250-page ESnet Program plan outlining the computer networking requirements for all of the Office of Energy Research programs.

1988-01-10 00:00:00

It's Official: ESnet Launches

ESnet officially begins providing networking services in January 1988.

1988-01-31 00:00:00

Two-Year Plan Unveiled

ESnet head Jim Leighton outlines the network’s schedule for the first two years in an overview printed in the “Buffer” newsletter.

1988-06-10 00:00:00

Energy Research Network Management Report

In March, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory hosts a three-day workshop on Energy Research Network Management to examine future networking needs. The report is published in June.

1988-11-01 00:00:00

Seven Sites Linked; 1.5 Mbps Trunk Planned

ESnet completes the installation of an interim 56 Kbps network linking seven U.S. sites, with a plan to move to a 1.5 Mbps trunk. A 64 Kbps satellite link connects the network to CERN in Switzerland.

1988-12-31 00:00:00

More International Links Considered

The newly created ESnet Steering Committee asks the network staff to look into networking with sites outside the U.S., including facilities in England, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.

1989-06-15 04:01:09

A Decision to Go with Faster Routers

In the monthly “Buffer” newsletter for the NMFECC community, ESnet head Jim Leighton discusses “Some new directions for ESnet,” including a decision to move faster in deploying higher-speed commercial routers.

1989-09-15 04:01:09

Services Group Formed

ESnet announces the creation of a new Network Information and Services Group led by Bob Aiken to help the research community make more effective use of the network.

1989-10-01 04:01:09

Commercial, Multiprotocol Routers & T1 Lines Boost Speeds

ESnet deploys commercially supplied multiprotocol routers via T1 lines, which provide speeds of 1.5 Mbps using Cisco AGS routers.

1990-02-01 04:01:09

World Wide Web Up; ARPANET Down

The World Wide Web, proposed in 1989, began to popularize the Internet. The next year, ARPANET, the world's first internet, shuts down.

1990-05-01 02:00:46

T1 Links Double MFEnet Speeds

ESnet's new T1 links (which provide speeds of 1.5 Mbps) are 25 times faster than MFEnet’s 56 Kbps lines. (View 1990 ESnet map at left.)

1991-02-01 00:00:00


Long symbols for ESnet's forerunner MFEnet and NERSC, two 10-meter satellite dishes were dismantled after a decade of dependable service.

1991-05-01 02:00:46

45 Mbps Links In the Works

Plans are made to increase bandwidth, gradually extending the faster links to all sites. Six sites will initially be connected by T3 lines at 45 Mbps.

1992-06-01 00:00:00

Router Upgrade Boosts Bandwidth

ESnet upgrades to Cisco AGS+ routers. The routers used engineers a Cisco-designed high-speed data bus and packet switching engine. Cbus (short for "Cisco bus") was a 32-bit bus operating at 16.67 MHz, giving a total bandwidth of 533 Mbps.

1994-01-01 00:00:00

T3 Links, Live-swap Routers Go Live

First T3 links go into production, delivering 45 Mbps, and routers are upgraded to Cisco 7000s, which allow hot insertion and removal for continuous system operation.

1994-03-01 06:04:07

Brochure Highlights Network Services

ESnet publishes a brochure explaining the various services offered by the network. (1994 Services brochure.pdf)

1994-06-01 00:00:00

Focus on Remote Collborations; Info Access

An overview brochure notes that ESnet is intended to facilitate remote collaboration by researchers and to support needed information access and dissemination among scientific collaborators.

1994-09-25 00:00:00

Sprint Agreement for "Next-Gen Internet"

ESnet signs a multi-year agreement with Sprint to provide high-speed Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) communications as part of a federal initiative to develop the “Next Generation Internet.”

1994-11-01 06:04:07

Second ESnet Program Plan Published

The second ESnet Program Plan is published. In his transmission letter, ESnet Steering Committee Chairman Sandy Merola writes “I know of no other program within the Federal government that is so dedicated to and comprehensive in its representation of programs, sites and scientists.”

1995-01-01 06:04:07

Traffic Increases 100 Percent in One Year

Over the course of the year, ESnet accommodates a 100 percent increase in traffic, from 4.5 billion to 9 billion packets.

1995-04-03 00:00:00

First ATM Links Deliver up to 622 Mbps

After testing with four sites, ESnet puts the first production traffic into operation using the new ATM data communication services through an agreement with Sprint. This will deliver up to 622 Mbps.

1996-02-25 16:28:03

NERSC Publishes "An Introduction to Cyberspace"

With the growing role of ESnet and the Internet in research and other fields, NERSC provides its users with an article answering questions like "What is the World Wide Web?" and "What is the Internet?"

1996-06-01 23:59:59

ESnet joins the IPv6 backbone research effort.

ESnet was an early partner in researching IPv6, the next generation Internet Protocol developed to provide more Internet addresses. ESnet was also a participant in the 6bone IPv6 testbed project, and provided overall management for the 6bone until the 6bone was decommissioned.

1996-10-01 00:00:00

ESnet, NERSC Move to LBNL

ESnet and NERSC move to Berkeley Lab. Although the network had been part of the NERSC supercomputing center at LLNL, ESnet becomes a standalone department at Berkeley Lab. View the ESnet brochure created for the new program.

1996-10-01 23:59:59

Video: Scientific Facilities Online

Shortly after the move to Berkeley Lab in 1996, ESnet produced a series of videos to explain aspects of the network's role in science, such as combining the power of scientific facilities through network connections.

1996-10-30 00:00:00

Video: Remote Experiment Control

Shortly after the move to Berkeley Lab in 1996, ESnet produced a series of videos to explain aspects of the network's role in scientific discovery, including this one about some of the first efforts to control experiments remotely over the network.

1996-11-15 00:00:00

Video: What is Distributed Computing?

Shortly after the move to Berkeley Lab in 1996, ESnet produced a series of videos to explain aspects of the network's role in science, including distributed computing.

1996-11-30 00:00:00

Video: The Future of Work is Remote

In 1996, ESnet staff were on the cutting edge of remote work. A regional work center experiment saved some employees the 38 mile commute to Berkeley and allowed them to work flexible hours. The video confidently predicts that someday people might do the same from even further away, like out-of-state!

1996-12-01 23:59:59

ESnet Maps Out Strategy

ESnet maps out its strategy for supporting DOE research and “positioning itself to meet the challenges of integrating the DOE’s facilities, information, and expertise into a more effective and responsive enterprise.”

1998-01-10 17:52:54

OC12 Service Begins

Enter story info here

1998-03-15 23:59:59

Third Program Plan Released

ESnet publishes its third program plan, which includes a summary of research programs served by ESnet and outline’s each program’s present and future networking needs.

1998-04-14 23:59:59

First Demo of Differentiated Services (QoS)

In a “Quality of Service” demonstration led by ESnet, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley and Argonne national laboratories successfully mark selected Internet traffic for priority service over unmarked, lower-priority traffic in a cross-country demonstration, paving the way for more reliable and constant connectivity via priority bandwidth. In a test sharing an intentionally congested path, the priority-marked stream moved at eight frames per second, while the standard version transmitted just one frame per second.

1998-07-30 23:59:59

Bill Johnston Delivers Ten Year Retrospective

At the 7th IEEE Symposium on High Performance Distributed Computing, LBL’s Bill Johnston gives a presentation on “High-Speed, Wide Area, Data Intensive Computing: A Ten Year Retrospective.”

1999-08-03 23:59:59

ESnet Assigned First-Ever Production IPv6 Address

ESnet requests and is assigned the very first production IPv6 addressing prefix by the American Registry for Internet Numbers and uses it to provide IPv6 services to users.

2000-01-05 06:04:07

$50 mil Qwest Contract Speeds Links

ESnet announces that it has awarded a $50 million contract to Qwest Communications International Inc. to support ESnet for up to seven years. Under the contract, Qwest will provide performance levels up to a terabit network by the year 2005, offering 500 times the highest speed then available in the industry.

2000-09-18 06:04:07

New Millenium Network

2001-02-05 06:04:07

2001 Program Plan Released

ESnet issues a 118-page program plan looking at current and future networking requirements to support research across the DOE Office of Science.

2001-09-30 00:00:00

Partnership Shift to Qwest

Transition from Sprint to Qwest as ESnet’s network provider. Equipment includes Juniper M20 and Cisco 8540 & 7500 routers.

ESnet: Networking at the Speed of Science

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