The White Rabbit Project

A public-private partnership outstanding use case

What is the White Rabbit technology?

White Rabbit (WR) is an extension to Ethernet technology initially proposed by CERN and developed in collaboration with many institutes and companies. It allows users to synchronize remote devices within one billionth of a second (1 nanosecond).

At a first stage, the target was timing systems for particle accelerators but soon the goal shifted to a much broader scope. This pushed the technology to evolve to a more general solution to be used on Astrophysics facilities, metrology institutes, Fintech datacenters or Radar applications.

Features

Time Precision

Provides a common clock for physical layer in the entire network, allowing a nanosecond synchronization accuracy and 20 picosecond jitter time.

Distance Range

The WR network is designed to support distance ranges of 10 km using fiber cables. Nevertheless, there are experiments showing synchronization capabilities over hundred of Kms

Scalability

The WR network is designed to be highly scalable with up to thousands of nodes. It also intents to be as modular as possible and compatible with non-WR devices.

Robustness

It can ensure the robustness of the transmission inside the WR network even if some switches crashed or some frames are corrupted.

Deterministic

Ensures that all the Ethernet frames sent are delivered at least after a fixed delay (controlled latency). The order of the frames should be preserved.

Autocalibration

White Rabbit Protocol provides a dynamic solution to carry on the synchronization over time by adapting its configuration along with the surrounding conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, fibre bending, etc.).

Standards

Interoperability. The solution is transparent to the user and it is built over open, well known, and standard protocols: Precision Time Protocol (IEEE1588) + Synchronous Ethernet (Sync-E)

Seven Solution joins the White-Rabbit initiative in 2010

Seven Solutions joined the White Rabbit initiative at a very early stage back in 2010, as one of the first industrial partners. This translated into a remarkable collaboration opportunity with worldwide leading scientific institutions as CERN, GSI, NIKHEF or DESY.

Our early participation was partially funded by a R&D national grant in the framework of the national framework for Scientific Research, Development and Technology Innovation 2008-2011, “Program for supporting Industry for Science 2010”. The grant title was: “Research Project applied to the design of a high performance switch”. This represents a clear successful case of a public-private collaboration that transformed a small co-funded seed capital into a private initiative at Seven Solutions that eventually led to a full set of competitive products and services.

Seven Solutions is the original designer of the main and most advance device of the open hardware White-Rabbit ecosystem, the White-Rabbit Switch. The hardware design for the White Rabbit switch is licensed under the CERN Open Hardware Licence (OHL) while the firmware and driver software also is available under “open” license.

At a first stage, the target was timing systems for particle accelerators but soon the goal shifted to a much broader scope. This pushed the technology to evolve to a more general solution to be used on Astrophysics facilities, metrology institutes, Fintech datacenters or Radar applications.

From the early beginning, our involvement represented a remarkable innovation for the company not only on the technological side but also on the business side, pushing our company to a higher quality level for a very demanding, innovative and competitive business segment. This facilitated large facilities and companies to relay on a small SME. Seven Solutions was born as a Spin-off from the University of Granada back in 2006, but we consider ourselves also somehow a Spin off of CERN because of their support and training during the initial stages of the project. This represents a differential value for us (the CERN touch) in very innovative markets.


Thus, we took full advantage of that opportunity and transformed White Rabbit into a full industrial solution, offering new break-through products and features as well as services and support. We also innovated our business model, making compatible the design of open source solutions with additional proprietary industrial solutions.

White Rabbit and Seven Solutions Nowadays

White Rabbit is now a commercial solution used by hundreds of customers worldwide. Seven Solutions, native in subnanosecond timing, is the leading company in this technology, offering the most complete and interoperable ecosystem of products and services.

White Rabbits users include research infrastructures and institutions as CERN, GSI, Fermilab, IFMIF, ELI-ALPS, ELI-BEAMS, EISCAT, KM3Net, CTA, SKA, DESY, ESS, PANOSETI, Berkeley, ProtoDUNE, ESA, DLR, ESRF, LHAASO and many others. Most of the Timing units of National Metrology Institutes around the world use this technology. In addition, many industrial companies from the Telecommunications, Smart Grid, automation, Fintech and and other markets are right now users of this technology.

Finally note that the White Rabbit initiative pushed one step further for its standardization. This crystalized on the new IEEE-1588-2019 standard as a new High Accuracy profile, deeply based on the White Rabbit protocol and mechanisms. The standard can be obtained from IEEE and a general overview is provided here .