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Broadening the Reach of Cyberinfrastructure Breakthroughs

Jan 12, 2015, by Nili Tannenbaum
Tags: 100, Performance Monitoring, Performance Tools, Research, Research Funding Support, Research Support Center, Research Technology

For the past year, Internet2 has been promoting the improvement of campus cyberinfrastructure through an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) entitled Broadening the Reach (BTR): A Cyberinfrastructure Program for Non-Research-Intensive and EPSCoR Institutions. Through a geographically and demographically diverse series of workshops and site visits to individual campuses, the BTR project has targeted the enhancement of campus network infrastructure and external connectivity of small colleges and universities, including but not limited to those in EPSCoR states.

Many of these campuses have notable research projects, even though the institution may not be primarily research-focused, but have not had opportunities to upgrade their broadband capacity, develop long-range cyberinfrastructure plans, or accommodate the increase in research and education reliant on big data exchange and storage.

This project has built upon Internet2’s track record in campus infrastructure enhancement, campus-focused network performance workshops, and tools that foster intra- and inter-campus collaboration. It also supports NSF efforts on behalf of under-represented institutions and those in states identified in the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, to upgrade infrastructures and enhance research and non-research activities. By participating in the project’s workshops and on-campus visits, researchers and network staff at campuses throughout the country will compete more effectively for campus cyberinfrastructure improvement funding—including NSF’s CC-NIE and CC*IIE initiatives—which previously targeted research-intensive institutions that had already made considerable infrastructure investments.

Three regional BTR workshops were held in 2014: the first was hosted in February by Internet2 regional partner, Great Plains Network, in Kansas City, Missouri. A second was hosted in May by Internet2 member, the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, Utah; and a third was hosted in September by MCNC in Raleigh, North Carolina. Each workshop included one-and-a-half days of presentations focusing on

  • Technical, organizational, and administrative aspects of network upgrades
  • Integration of cyberinfrastructure into campus environments to support campus-based research and teaching
  • Advice and guidance regarding preparing and submitting competitive and compelling proposals for NSF and other campus cyberinfrastructure funding opportunities.

Topics included network design principles, network tools and performance (including perfSONAR and tools to improve data transfer), federated identity considerations, and support for scholars—identification of funding opportunities, campus infrastructure strategic planning, guidance on proposal preparation, and data management considerations.

The workshop series was attended by 119 participants representing over 70 organizations, including colleges, universities, EPSCoR institutions, community and tribal colleges, and regional networks. Results from the workshops have been disseminated at Internet2 community meetings and via website postings.

As the project enters its second year, it will focus on a series of up to 30 campus site visits by expert consultants meeting with technical and high-level administrative staff from non-research intensive schools, with an emphasis on institutions participating in current and future NSF CC-NIE/*IIE programs. These visits are intended to help institutions implement their cyberinfrastructure plans, and to share state-of-the-art practices in support of high-performance networking and data movement and storage.

Site selection for these visits will be prioritized for (but not limited to) campuses that attended workshops and have received—or are in the process of applying for—NSF infrastructure awards. Areas of technical assistance include: network architecture, network security; Science DMZ; software-defined networking; performance monitoring infrastructure and tools for understanding end-to-end performance. Network Administrator and CIO-level administrative topics addressed may include campus cyberinfrastructure planning, outreach to campus scholars, and the relationship between campus IT policies and the underlying network infrastructure.

An invitation-only “Train the Trainers” workshop was held in Dallas, TX, in December 2014 to recruit and train individuals who will serve as campus site visit consultants. The workshop incorporated feedback from all three BTR workshops, feedback from each of the campuses to be visited, and lessons learned from prior visits.

As research and education requires ever more inter-campus and interdisciplinary collaboration, larger data exchange and storage, and higher network performance, the BTR project is one example of how the Internet2 community is working to ensure that campus network resources and research capabilities are ready to meet the challenge.