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IU awarded $5 million to analyze, improve international networks

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—A new $5 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant, awarded to Indiana University and partners at the University of California Davis and University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, seeks to bolster research networks by enabling unprecedented measurement and analysis.

Every day, thousands of researchers rely on these networks to share huge amounts of data with their colleagues around the world.

The grant will fund NetSage, a network measurement, analysis and visualization project addressing state-of-the-art challenges in today's international research and education networks. IU will serve as the lead institution, with Jennifer Schopf, IU director of international networks, as the principal investigator. Co-principal investigators are Sean Peisert at UC Davis and Jason Leigh at Hawai'i.

This award is a part of the NSF's International Research Network Connections program (award #1540933).

"NetSage gives us a measurement-based understanding of how the NSF's research and education network infrastructure performs and how it's used, allowing us to better engineer future networks in support of large-scale scientific data flows," said Schopf. "Think about it like a traffic sensor on the freeway that provides the data state officials need to make decisions about new roads and traffic patterns. In effect, NetSage is our network traffic sensor, helping us see network congestion and other traffic issues."

Added Leigh, who leads the project's data visualization efforts: "Just as we're used to navigating a freeway traffic map on the Internet, we'll be able to see the performance of the entire IRNC network, visually and interactively."

NetSage will help network engineers gain a better understanding of:

  • current traffic patterns across the International Research Network Connections' links, and the ability to anticipate growth trends for capacity-planning purposes;
  • the main sources and sinks of large data flows to know where to focus outreach and training opportunities; and
  • where network transmission problems are occurring, whether the cause is congestion or other issues, and what impact it has on end-to-end performance.

Armed with this information, Schopf and her team can get a jump on network improvements--fueling faster discovery.

"For example, we'll be able to see that geosciences is a growing percentage, that two universities are collaborating in this field, and that they're not getting the kind of performance we think they should," she said. "With this information, we can reach out to their networks and better support them."

To address concerns about user privacy, given the data flowing through the exchange points, IU has formed a privacy advisory board that will work to ensure NetSage's data-gathering activities are conducted legally and ethically.

The NetSage news comes on the heels of IU's announcement last month of a five-year, $4.8 million NSF grant to fund TransPAC4, the high-speed network that connects researchers in the US with their counterparts in Asia.

"I am delighted that the NSF has again selected IU and Schopf to lead the important work of NetSage," said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and CIO. "With IU's recent NSF award for Asia Pacific networking and NetSage, and with our many partners, we again affirm almost 20 years of IU leadership in the critical areas of international research networks."

About IU International Networks

International Networks at IU leads two large-scale international research networks that link scientists around the world—the NSF-funded America Connects to Europe network, and TransPAC4, which connects the US to Asia.