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IU GlobalNOC wins $4.8M networking grant

NSF award continues funding for TransPAC, the high-speed network connecting US and Asian researchers

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana University Global Research Network Operations Center (GlobalNOC) today announced the award of a major new five-year, $4.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The new funding will enable continued planning, operation, engineering support and management of TransPAC, the high-speed network that connects researchers in the US with their counterparts in Asia.

Known as TransPAC4, it is the fourth-consecutive grant of its kind to be awarded to IU. Jennifer Schopf, Ph.D., IU director of international networks, led the development of the international proposal and will serve as the project’s principal investigator. In addition to supporting scientists in big data domains such as high-energy physics, astronomy and bioinformatics, TransPAC4 will also be accessible for growing network needs in applications for geoscience, climate science, and disease- and health-monitoring work.

IU leaders discuss TransPAC's history and future:

"TransPAC4 extends IU’s leadership role with key partners in Asia-Pacific networks to 22 years, and ensures that we have another five years to power new discovery and innovative networking," said Schopf. "Whether it’s scientists working to find a cure for the deadly tropical disease Dengue fever or astronomers seeking answers about the universe, Indiana University engineers are there, managing the networks these researchers need to share their work, make discoveries – even save lives."

TransPAC got its start in 1998, when current IU President Michael A. McRobbie was IU vice president for information technology, CIO and vice president for research. He served as principal investigator for the initial grant, funded by a five-year, $10 million award from the NSF. In the ensuing years, the university has grown its expertise in global network operations and engineering to the point that its GlobalNOC now manages dozens of networks and employs a staff of more than 100 network engineers.

"Today, Indiana University is the pre-eminent site in the world for the management  of education and research networks," said McRobbie. "Everything we learned in those early TransPAC days enabled us to get better and better – and to develop an international reputation for excellence in network engineering and operations of which IU is immensely proud. TransPAC has contributed substantially to the research and education missions of the university, and it has been particularly good for advancing the international agenda of the university. In fact, TransPAC has played a significant role in helping to develop IU’s relationships in the Asia Pacific and will continue to do so in the years to come." 

TransPAC4 will facilitate direct US-Asia research interactions, working closely with two main collaborators: the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) of which McRobbie was a co-founder in 1996 and which represents research and education interests across much of Asia, and the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN), which provides dedicated high-capacity internet connectivity for research and education communities across the Asia-Pacific region.

The TransPAC4 network will connect almost all of Asia, excluding only North Korea, Brunei and Mongolia. With this latest round of funding, the TransPAC4 engineers will build a platform that will enable growth and expanded capacity between Asia and the US. The project’s high-level plan includes working with partner organizations to support a suite of production-quality 10G and 100G trans-oceanic circuits.

"This new project will enable state-of-the-art international network services and access to increased collaboration and data services for the research and education community in the US and Asia-Pacific region," said Shinji Shimojo, director of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), which will provide direct research and education support to TransPAC4. "We believe the new network, enhanced with advanced technology such as software-defined networking, can bring science up to the next level, creating a new frontier of big data-intensive science for both countries."

For every NSF-supported circuit, the TransPAC team will leverage several complementary links, or sister circuits, funded by its partners to share traffic, add redundancy and enable additional experimental work. By the end of the five-year project, there will be multiple 100G-capacity circuits available to the US and Asian research and education communities.

The TransPAC project provides benefits closer to home as well. "TransPAC4 again highlights the economic impact of developing some of the nation’s and the world’s most advanced network management and engineering capabilities here in Indiana," said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and CIO. "IU’s GlobalNOC enables us to compete and win federal grants at the highest levels of applied network engineering while supporting over 100 highly skilled jobs in our state." 

This award is part of the National Science Foundation's IRNC program (award #1450904).

About the Global Research Network Operations Center

The Global Research Network Operations Center (GlobalNOC ) at Indiana University is the premier operations and engineering organization supporting advanced international, national, regional and local high-performance research and education networks including  Internet2, NOAA, and Indiana’s own I-Light

GlobalNOC plays a major role in transforming the face of digital science, research and education in Indiana, the US, and the world  by providing unparalleled network operations and engineering needed for reliable and cost-effective access to specialized facilities for research and education. For more about GlobalNOC, visit here.