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National LambdaRail

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
National LambdaRail
PurposeResearch network
Region served
United States

National LambdaRail (NLR) was a 12,000-mile (19,000 km), high-speed national computer network owned and operated by the U.S. research and education community. In November 2011, the control of NLR was purchased from its university membership by a billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. NLR ceased operations in March 2014.



The goals of the National LambdaRail project were:[1]

  • Provide infrastructure for multipurpose advanced networking
  • Allow multiple high-speed networks to be run simultaneously



NLR used fiber-optic lines, and was the first transcontinental 10 Gigabit Ethernet network. Its high capacity (up to 1.6 Tbit/s aggregate), high bitrate (40 Gbit/s as of 2010; 100 Gbit/s as of 2011) and high availability (99.99% or more), enabled National LambdaRail to support demanding research projects.[2][3] Users included NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and over 280 research universities and other laboratories.[4][5][6][7] In 2009 National LambdaRail was selected to provide wide-area networking for U.S. laboratories participating in research related to the Large Hadron Collider project, based near Geneva, Switzerland.[8]

It was primarily oriented to aid terascale computing efforts and to be used as a network testbed for experimentation with large-scale networks. National LambdaRail was a university-based and -owned initiative, in contrast to a university-corporate sponsorships such as Abilene Network and Internet2.[citation needed] National LambdaRail did not impose any acceptable use policies on its users, in contrast to commercial networks.[citation needed] This gave researchers more control to use the network for these research projects. National LambdaRail also supported a production layer, called "PacketNet," on its infrastructure.[9]

Links in the network used dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), which allows up to 64 individual optical wavelengths to be used (depending on hardware configuration at each end) separated by 100 GHz spacing.[10] At present,[when?] individual wavelengths are used to carry traditional OC-X (OC3, OC12, OC48 or OC192) time-division multiplexing circuits or Ethernet signals for Gigabit Ethernet or 10 Gigabit Ethernet.[citation needed]

National LambdaRail was founded in 2003, completed its first phase in 2004, and reached fully-operational status on its national, advanced fiber optic network in 2006.[11][12] In addition to being the first transcontinental, production 10 Gigabit Ethernet network, National LambdaRail was also the first intelligently managed, nationwide peering and transit program focused on research applications.[citation needed]

In 2008, a company named Darkstrand purchased capacity on NLR for commercial use.[13] By the end of the year the Chicago-based company was having trouble raising funding due to the Great Recession.[14] On May 24, 2012 the NLR network operations center services were transferred to the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California.[15] In October 2009 Glenn Ricart was named president and CEO.[16] On September 7, 2010 Ricart announced his resignation.[17]

In November 2011 the control of NLR was purchased from its university membership by a billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong for $100M, who indicated his intention to upgrade NLR infrastructure and repurpose portions of it to support an ambitious healthcare project through NantHealth.[18] The upgrade never took place. NLR ceased operations in March 2014.[19][20][21][22]

Member organizations


Members of National LambdaRail are state or regional optical networks, which provide connectivity to the individual universities and laboratories using NLR. NLR has 13 members which enable more than 280 research universities and government laboratories to connect to NLR. The following is a list, from the official National LambdaRail web site as of 2008, of LambdaRail member organizations.[23]


  1. ^ Paulson, L.D. (19 December 2003). "Researchers plan experimental optical network". Computer. 36 (12): 24. doi:10.1109/MC.2003.1250861 – via IEEE Xplore.
  2. ^ "NASA High-End Computing Testbed Runs Over National LambdaRail (NLR)" (PDF). 9 September 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 September 2015.
  3. ^ Staff (2011-11-14). "National LambdaRail Delivers 100G to SC11 Show in Seattle". Converge Digest. Retrieved 2023-12-23.
  4. ^ "Goddard Space Flight Center Among First 10 Users of the National LambdaRail" (PDF). Godard Space Flight Center. Retrieved 23 December 2023.
  5. ^ Staff (2011-12-05). "National LambdaRail Connects NOAA's Supercomputing Facilities". Converge Digest. Retrieved 2023-12-23.
  6. ^ "ORNL, National LambdaRail partners in major network project | ORNL". www.ornl.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-23.
  7. ^ Scott, Kristina (2 August 2010). "National LambdaRail (NLR) Enables Greater Flexibility, Control for Provisioning VLANs". Press Release. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2023.
  8. ^ "LHC selects fibre optic circuit | Scientific Computing World". www.scientific-computing.com. Retrieved 2023-12-23.
  9. ^ "PacketNet: IP-Based Services". National LambdaRail. 23 December 2023. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009.
  10. ^ Eiselt, M; Garrett, L; Wiesenfeld, J; Bragg, J; Cox, J; Hill, A; Sharp, K; Teipen, B; Baca, R; Young, M; Tkach, R (March 2006). "Field trial of a 1250-km Private Optical Network Based on a Single-Fiber, Shared-Amplifier WDM System". Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition and the National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference, Technical Digest (CD) – via Optica Publishing Group.
  11. ^ "Success Story: National LambdaRail". LightRiver Companies. Retrieved 2023-12-23.
  12. ^ Staff (2006-02-19). "National LambdaRail Reaches Fully Operational Status". Converge Digest. Retrieved 2023-12-23.
  13. ^ Michael Feldman (October 28, 2008). "National LambdaRail Opens for Business". HPCwire. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  14. ^ Om Malik (December 23, 2008). "Dark Clouds for Darkstrand". Business Week. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  15. ^ "National LambdaRail's Network Operations Services Transferred to CENIC". Press release. May 24, 2012. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  16. ^ "National LambdaRail Names New CEO: Glenn Ricart". Press release. October 5, 2009. Archived from the original on June 2, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  17. ^ "National LambdaRail (NLR) Appoints CTO Wendy Huntoon as Acting President and CEO". Press release. September 7, 2010. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  18. ^ "Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong Wants To Remake The U.S. Health Care System". Forbes. November 10, 2011. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  19. ^ "National Lambda Rail (NLR) to cease operation". PennState ITS.
  20. ^ "Information about NLR network". Weill Cornell Medical College ITS.
  21. ^ "Discontinuing National Lambda Rail Service at UVa (Feb. 13, 2014)". University of Virginia ITS.
  22. ^ "[GPN Board] NLR Shutdown and GPN's Plans to Mitigate Any Impact".
  23. ^ "National LambdaRail Members". Archived from the original on 2013-02-22.