Global Lambda Integrated Facility

About GLIF

What is GLIF?

GLIF, the Global Lambda Integrated Facility, is an international consortium that promotes the paradigm of lambda networking. The GLIF participants are National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), consortia and institutions working with lambdas. Participation in GLIF is open to any organisation that subscribes to the GLIF vision and can contribute to the GLIF actvities. GLIF was established at the 3rd LambdaGrid Workshop in Reykjavik, Iceland, in August 2003.

The activities of GLIF are two-fold:

  • The GLIF participants jointly make lambdas available as an integrated global facility for use by scientists and projects involved in data-intensive scientific research.
  • GLIF brings together leading networking engineers worldwide, who exchange information to learn from each other's experiences, seek to establish best practice, work together to develop, test and implement new lambda networking technologies, middleware and applications, and generally collaborate to bring the technology forward.

The GLIF community shares a common vision of building a new grid-computing paradigm, in which the central architectural element is optical networks, not computers, to support this decade's most demanding e-science applications. This paradigm is based on the use of parallelism, as in supercomputing a decade ago. However, with GLIF the parallelism is in multiple wavelengths of light, or lambdas, on single optical fibres.

What is Lambda Networking and a LambdaGrid?

Lambda networking is essentially about using different 'colours' or wavelengths of (laser) light in fibres for separate connections. Each wavelength is called a 'lambda'. In lambda networking, the goal is to achieve ultimate Quality of Service by giving applications and user communities their own sets of lambdas on a shared fibre infrastructure, thus isolating the different communities from each other.

The implementation requires Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) to accommodate many wavelengths on a fibre, optical switches, and other optical networking equipment. Initially, Grid computing and other Grid applications have made use of best-effort, shared TCP/IP networks. In other words, the network is simply the glue that holds the middleware-enabled computational resources together.

In contrast, GLIF is interested in developing "application-empowered" networks, in which the networks themselves are schedulable Grid resources. These application-empowered deterministic networks, or "LambdaGrids", complement the conventional networks, which provide a general infrastructure with a common set of services to the broader research and education community.

A LambdaGrid requires the interconnectivity of optical links, each carrying one or more lambdas, or wavelengths, of data, to form on-demand, end-to-end 'light paths', in order to meet the needs of very demanding e-science applications.

The main application drivers for these new 'application-empowered' networks are high-performance e-science projects. E-science consists of very large-scale applications - such as high-energy physics, astronomy, earth science, bio-informatics and the environmental sciences - that study very complex micro- to macro-scale problems over time and space. In the future, these networks will conceivably also be taken up in other application domains, including education, emergency services, health services and commerce.

In the coming decade, e-science will require distributed petaops computing, exabyte storage, and terabit networks.

GLIF History

In September 2001, TERENA organised and hosted the first LambdaGrid meeting in Amsterdam, in collaboration with StarLight, CANARIE, Internet2 and SURFnet. This was followed by the first open International Lambda Workshop on the next two days. At that time, the first research-only 2.5 Gb/s lambda between NetherLight and StarLight was on order. At the first LambdaGrid meeting, concepts about lambda networking were established and the first experiments were defined.

In September 2002, iGrid 2002 was an open worldwide event, followed by the second LambdaGrid Workshop, this time hosted by the Science Park Amsterdam and SURFnet. At that meeting, lessons learnt from the first year and the iGrid2002 event were discussed, as well as the expansion of the test bed.

The 3rd LambdaGrid Workshop was held in Reykjavik, Iceland in August 2003; following that year's NORDUnet conference. The main outcome of this workshop was the decision to move from one-time demonstrations to a permanent virtual organisation providing a global integrated lambda facility. The event also saw the first meetings of the working groups through which the GLIF activities are organised.

UKERNA hosted the 4th LambdaGrid Workshop in Nottingham, England in September 2004. Extensive meetings of the working groups were the major part of the event. It was decided to contract TERENA to provide a lightweight secretariat for the GLIF. It was also decided that future LambdaGrid workshops will no longer be by invitation only, but will be open to any person interested in promoting the GLIF objectives.

GLIF logo

The GLIF official logo is available in different formats for use by anyone who wishes to reproduce the GLIF logo to acknowledge GLIF participation. No special permission is required from the GLIF secretariat to reproduce this image. If you have any technical questions about the use of this, please direct them to