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TechEX 2019 Sneak Peek: How the Eastern Regional Network is Simplifying Multi-Campus Research Collaborations Across the Northeast

Oct 31, 2019, by Sara Aly
Tags: 2019 Technology Exchange, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Distributed Big Data and Analytics, End-to-End Research Support, Frontpage News, Google Cloud Platform, Higher Education, Identity Federation, InCommon Participant, Internet2 Member, Internet2 Network, Network Infrastructure, perfSONAR, Recent Posts, Regional Networks, Research & Education Networks, Research Support

By John Barden, Yale University; Rene Baston, Columbia University/Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub; John Goodhue, MGHPCC; Vasant Honavar, Pennsylvania State University; Wendy Huntoon, KINBER; David Marble, OSHEAN; John Moore, Consultant; Sharon Pitt, University of Delaware; Bruce Segee, University of Maine – Orono; and Barr von Oehsen, Rutgers University

The now ubiquitous role of research computing and data in scientific discovery and scholarship across all disciplines presents new challenges not only to providers of these services but also to researchers eager to keep pace with the ever-changing technology landscape.

Even more challenging are multi-institutional/multi-investigator research projects that require shared access to low-latency or high-bandwidth networks, data repositories, advanced computing resources, and specialized research instruments.

Add campus cybersecurity to the mix (e.g. network and identity management) and you encounter an ecosystem filled with roadblocks that can be unfriendly to researchers—particularly those relying on external collaborations and partnerships.

The Eastern Regional Network (ERN) was formed to address these challenges, with a goal of simplifying multi-campus collaborations and partnerships in the Northeast and advancing the frontiers of research, pedagogy, and innovation. The ERN is first and foremost a network of people interested in pursuing this vision, and who manage and use the campus and regional research computing, data, storage and network resources that can make it happen.

We have chosen to make this a regional effort for two principal reasons:

  1. face to face interactions are relatively straightforward and inexpensive to arrange;
  2. the characteristics of our region are unique – for example, the Northeast contains eight different state university systems in a geographic area whose size is comparable to that of California.

When the ERN was formed, we launched two infrastructure-centric projects intended to both develop and test new capabilities and to strengthen working relationships among cyberinfrastructure providers in the region. Both were “coalition of the willing” initiatives where the participating organizations contributed time and equipment.

The first project tested a method for launching high performance computing jobs across campuses. The prototype implementation enabled launching of jobs across federated clusters at 9 cooperating sites plus the Google cloud. It is now being put into production use for a cooperative effort between Rutgers and Penn State.

The second project formed a perfSONAR mesh that remains active and available to help identify and diagnose network throughput and delay issues across nine statewide research networks in the Northeast.

The vision and mission of the ERN reflects the reality that multi-institutional collaborations are on the rise, but the data sets that support them are getting too large to transfer easily, the computing resources that they require have increased beyond the capacity of most campuses, and the expertise needed to support compute intensive research is scarce.

To address these challenges, the ERN leverages the special relationship between researchers and the people who build and support research cyberinfrastructure in the region that it serves.

We are excited about the research focused initiatives that are starting now, which will build on our initial infrastructure collaborations and should pave the way for an abundance of science and education outcomes in a range of disciplines. Over time, these efforts will have transformative impact on the research and education communities in both small and large institutions across the region.

We hope you can join us at our 2019 Internet2 Technology Exchange session, The Eastern Regional Network (ERN): Simplifying Multi-Campus Research Collaborations, on Tuesday, December 10 at 11:20 a.m. We’ll be providing an overview of the ERN, including the proof of concept, current strategies, the importance of the partnership to the region, and how it all fits in with a national strategy.