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Through a combination of the high speed GÉANT research network, renewable energy sources and advanced software, the GreenStar Network (GSN) project has demonstrated an innovative new model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions within information and communication technologies (ICT).

The majority of electricity powering ICT infrastructure such as networks and datacentres is generated by fossil fuels, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Created to prove the viability of using green energy sources to power networking infrastructure and consequently reduce their carbon footprint, the GSN has consequently built a network of four international nodes within European datacentres, powered solely by renewable energy. Monitoring and control software, provided by the open source Mantychore project, distributes data processing and traffic loads between these nodes, using a Cloud-based infrastructure to ensure the maximum amount of green energy is used at all times.

The GSN relies on the high capacity, pan-European GÉANT network to transmit this vital monitoring data in real-time, using a mix of dedicated point to point circuits as well as GÉANT’s Bandwidth on Demand (BoD) multi-domain connectivity service. BoD enables the fast, automatic creation of dedicated high speed links between different network points within minutes, providing guaranteed bandwidth for the GSN.

There are currently four nodes in the European network, all powered by renewable energy sources. Two of these are in Ireland, run by Irish NREN HEAnet, using electricity generated by solar and wind power; one in Iceland, belonging to Nordic NREN NORDUNET, runs on energy created from a combination of geothermal and hydropower sources; while the fourth in Spain, operated by i2CAT and connected by Spanish NREN RedIRIS, also uses solar power. These nodes all connect to a central hub in Dublin through the GÉANT network.

“The GreenStar Network aims to demonstrate that it is possible to reduce the carbon footprint of ICT without decreasing performance,” said Mohamed Cheriet, project instigator, GreenStar Network. “The techniques and technology within the GSN project have far-reaching potential to reduce emissions, but none of this would be possible without flexible, high performance international research networks such as GÉANT to provide the real time monitoring and control needed to deliver a virtualised green architecture.”

The GSN project is funded and was originally created by Canadian NREN CANARIE, with the four European nodes being reorganised into a self-contained network in October 2011.

A powerful service for automatic bandwidth provisioning across multiple networks, BoD enables NRENs to quickly provision dedicated high speed dynamic circuits between different network points within the GÉANT Service Area (GSA) across Europe. Until now projects that needed to reliably transfer large amounts of data between two end points for short periods had to rely on static international connections. These could take weeks to create and consequently could only reasonably be available on a long term basis. BoD removes the drawbacks of static circuits, reducing administration and setup by allowing NRENs to quickly and cost-effectively provide guaranteed bandwidth to their users, exactly when they need it. Currently undergoing operational testing with six NRENs, the GÉANT BoD service is an integral part of the GreenStar Network Project.