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Indiana University, ESnet, Internet2 share $150K NSF grant to expand networking workshops

More network engineers will benefit from training to build next-gen campus networks, optimized for data-intensive science

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A new $150,000 award from the National Science Foundation will allow networking experts from Indiana University and partners at the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) and Internet2 to expand the successful Operating Innovative Networks workshop series. Since 2013, the workshops have helped network engineers learn to manage ever-increasing scientific data flows, hastening scientific discovery in the process. 

The workshops are a joint effort between IU’s Global Research Network Operations Center (GlobalNOC), ESnet, and Internet2 to accelerate scientific discovery at higher education institutions around the US. These events have equipped university and laboratory network engineers with the unique knowledge and training they need to build next-generation campus networks, optimized for data-intensive science. 

"Network engineers see their job as accelerating the rate of scientific discovery," said Jon-Paul Herron, principal investigator for the award and GlobalNOC director of engineering. "But at the same time, they need to ensure the network is available, secure, and performing well for all the users on their campus. And that’s where the Operating Innovative Networks workshops come in. By giving these engineers concrete technical lessons on how to implement advanced networking technology, we’re helping them get the most out of their networks. Now with the NSF’s backing, we are looking forward to the opportunity to expand our efforts." 

Each workshop features two days of presentation material and extensive hands-on exercises designed to encourage immediate, informed adoption of the technologies that will fit their needs. By the end of the event, attendees have a better understanding of the requirements for supporting scientific use of the network, and tools and strategies that can be used to mitigate problems users may encounter.

Michael Coffee, manager of network services at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, attended a recent OIN workshop in Pennsylvania. "The OIN workshop was a great success," he said. "It allowed many of us who maintain production networks to become more acquainted with the needs of research-based networks. The discussion of networking tools such as perfSONAR was of real value to me since we had just deployed a couple of perfSONAR servers at our institution. Being able to discuss the results we were seeing with those who helped create the tools was a tremendous help." 

Past workshops have shared detailed technical content on the Science DMZ paradigm, the perfSONAR network performance measurement system, and the use of open software defined networking (SDN) technologies like OpenFlow. Topics on tap for 2016 include advanced cybersecurity, new SDN methods, orchestration of networks with scientific cloud applications, and an SDN-based Science DMZ for increased performance and security.

"The Operating Innovative Networks workshop series is a great example of Indiana University’s emphasis on science engagement, or the human side of network technology," said Dave Jent, IU associate vice president of networks. "By training network engineers to ask researchers and scientists what they’re trying to do with their data and how the network can support that, we’re improving science outcomes on campuses." 

Alan Sutter, chief technology officer and director of technology infrastructure at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., agreed.

"I found the OIN workshop to be extremely worthwhile. It was a great mix of theoretical, practical and hands-on learning on topics that were very relevant to my needs as CTO," said Sutter. "F&M was recently awarded a grant to build a science DMZ, and the information I gained at the workshop will ensure that we spend the money in the most effective way possible. I would highly recommend the OIN workshop to anyone involved in networking in higher education." 

This award is a part of the NSF's Advanced Cyberinfrastructure program (award #1541421).

Learn more about the OIN workshops and view the 2016 schedule: