SWITCHLAN 2022 – THE YEAR IN REVIEW

The year 2022 has come to an end. And it was a very interesting one with lots of changes behind the scenes. That’s why we want to present the most relevant and interesting updates.

After the crisis is before the crisis

In summer 2022, just when we thought that the Covid crisis was over, the next one appeared on the horizon: electricity shortage scenarios. A secure, stable power supply has become such a matter of course in Switzerland over the past 100 years that hardly any organisation has been concerned with shutdowns or impending blackouts. Until now, we too confined ourselves to a redundant design of the power supply with an unspecified protection by a UPS. Then the federal government announced procedures with scheduled power interruptions. Immediately, discussions began internally about how we would deal with such situations. At the same time, more and more customer enquiries were received about this. The topic of power shortages occupied us accordingly in the second half of 2022. Two results have emerged so far:

  • We now have detailed information about the power supply at our backbone locations.
  • We are looking at a promising battery solution to improve autonomy at key backbone sites.

Personnel changes

In addition to all the technical changes, there were also personnel changes in the network team last year. In anticipation of upcoming retirements, we have strengthened our team with Simone Glinz and Daniel Sutter. Simone started as a successor of Ulrich Schmid who will retire in April 2023. She hence is responsible for many systems in the background (monitoring, statistics, data engineering, sysadmin, etc). Daniel supports us as project manager for our fibre optic infrastructure. Andy Hebeisen has left our team. He is now taking on overall responsibility as vocational trainer for the apprentices at SWITCH.

Most of the SWITCH Network Team (and an elderly couple) on top of mount Rigi during our first team event after the Covid crisis.

Business as usual

As mentioned at the beginning, we have made many changes in the background this year. In addition to various upgrades of peerings and upstreams, this also includes the addition of new locations and customers. The most significant milestone, however, is the successful completion of our first backbone links with a bandwidth of 400 Gbps. In December 2022, we were able to put the links on the triangle between ETHZ in Zurich, CSCS in Lugano and CERN in Geneva into operation. We were thus able to successfully demonstrate that our optical transport platform is still suitable for bandwidths beyond 100 Gbps.

One of the three first 400G routers in the SWITCHlan backbone (Cisco 8201-32FH with 32 400G ports on one rack unit)

Projects

In addition to old and new crises and our business-as-usual, we were also busy with various projects in the past year. In the case of SCION, for example, we were able to achieve two important milestones in addition to its introduction as an official SWITCHlan service. On the one hand, the Secure Swiss Finance Network (SSFN), created in collaboration with the Swiss National Bank and the SIX Group, went live in mid-year. On the other hand, we were able to convince GÉANT to set up SCION in their backbone and to establish a global isolation domain (ISD) for research networks.

We were able to achieve another highlight in the transmission of high-precision time signals that can be verified against UTC(CH). In collaboration with METAS and Armasuisse S+T, we launched a pilot project to explore the technical feasibility and market opportunities. We recorded a first highlight on the technical side on the route between METAS in Wabern/Bern and Armasuisse S+T in Thun. The measured deviation of the time out and back was only 4 ps (4 * 10-12 s).

A smaller, but still very useful project was the installation of a new speed test server. The new server has a direct backbone connection with 100 Gbps. It can be selected on the Ookla website as “SWITCH – Zurich”: see https://www.speedtest.net/.

Preliminary results during the initial setup of our new speedtest server. At least the download direction is good enough.

Outlook 2023

Besides providing excellent network connectivity services, we obviously have some interesting goals on our roadmap for 2023. For example, the CSCS will become our first customer with a 400 Gbps SWITCHlan IP Access service. And in a couple of months, we’ll be able to provide this service redundantly. To achieve this, we are going to deploy a second set of 400G routers at CSCS, the ETH Zurich and at CERN in summer. Further, we will improve our resiliency in terms of upstreams and peerings. With GTT, we’ll add another upstream provider. For the peerings, we will most notably add a second private network interconnect to Microsoft as well as augmenting the bandwidth to 100 Gbps. More upgrades to 100 Gbps will follow for other big peers as well. And that’s only a small set of our roadmap.

Author: Daniel Bertolo

After studying IT at the University of Applied Sciences in Rapperswil, Daniel Bertolo joined SWITCH in 2007. As a system engineer in the network team, he was responsible for the optical transmission systems and for SWITCHconnect. He has been head of the Network Team since 2013.

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