Internet2 Supporting Members in Meeting the Cyberinfrastructure

By Adam Murray,2014-06-17 19:05
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Internet2 Supporting Members in Meeting the Cyberinfrastructure

    Internet2 Supporting Members in Meeting the

    Cyberinfrastructure Challenge


    The U.S. research and education community relies on cyberinfrastructure (CI)

    to conduct their research and fulfill their instructional goals. This paper

    describes the challenges the Internet2 community faces in developing,

    deploying, and maintaining the many components of cyberinfrastructure and

    provides a snapshot of the Internet2 community’s current approach to

    supporting members in meeting this challenge. It is intended to be a living

    document that will evolve based on input from the Internet2 community,

    especially from the Strategic Planning process currently underway.

The Importance of Cyberinfrastructure to the Internet2


    The Internet2 organization is led by the U.S. research and education

    community. The Internet2 community includes technology leaders from

    industry, government and the international arena. Individuals involved in the

    Internet2 community include leaders in using advanced networking in diverse

    fields such as astronomy, high-energy nuclear physics, the arts and

    humanities, teaching and learning, and the health sciences.

Increasingly, these application communities, sometimes called virtual

    organizations (VOs), rely on cyberinfrastructure to make progress in their

    fields. Physicists capture, store, transmit and process petabytes of data

    around the world from specialized, one-of-a-kind instruments. Musicians use

    HD-quality video and audio to collaborate across the United States. Radio

    astronomers combine gigabit-per-second data streams from telescopes in

    different hemispheres to see farther into space. Rural health care providers

    improve the quality of treatment for their patients by sharing digital x-rays

    with specialists at research hospitals. These activities allow teachers,

    musicians, doctors, and researchers to work more effectively, advancing the

    research and education missions of Internet2-member organizations. And,

    they depend on cyberinfrastructure.

As the NSF Blue Ribbon Panel put it:

    “Cyberinfrastructure, as it captures commonalities of need across

    applications, incorporates more and more capabilities integral to the

    methodologies and processes of science and engineering research.

    Cyberinfrastructure will become as fundamental and important as an

    enabler for the enterprise as laboratories and instrumentation, as

    fundamental as classroom instruction, and as fundamental as the

    system of conferences and journals for dissemination of research

    outcomes. Through cyberinfrastructure we strongly influence the

    conduct of science and engineering research (and ultimately

    engineering development) in the coming decades.”


Defining Cyberinfrastructure

    Cyberinfrastructure was first formally defined in the report,

    “Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery”. This document,

    produced in 2003 by a Blue Ribbon panel convened by the National Science

    Foundation, defines cyberinfrastructure as:

    “A diverse set of technologies, facilities, and services and intangibles

    like design processes and best practices and shared knowledge. A

    major technological component is software that participates directly in

    applications and software tools that aid in the development and

    management of applications. A critical non-technological element is

    people and organizations that develop and maintain software, operate

    equipment and software as it is used, and directly assist end-users in

    the development and use of applications.”

Thus, cyberinfrastructure can be thought of as similar to other broad-ranging

    infrastructures: it encompasses physical assets, information, people, and

    skills, and is relied upon for a wide range of uses. For example, air travel

    requires aircraft, airports, air traffic control facilities, as well as the personnel

    and training needed to operate all of these physical assets and facilities.

Likewise, both air travel and cyberinfrastructure may be used to facilitate

    commerce, medical transport, or scientific collaboration. According to the

    NSF report, cyberinfrastructure is distinguished from other infrastructure

    because it “is required for a knowledge economy.”

Components of cyberinfrastructure include computation resources, display

    and visualization devices, instrumentation, application software, middleware

    that provides security and access control functions, as well as the personnel

    involved in developing, deploying and maintaining each of these components.

    Of course, cyberinfrastructure also includes the network infrastructuresuch

    as fiber optic cables, routers, and optical equipmentthat connect the

    various components, as well as the personnel that build and operate them.

    Figure 1 provides an overview of the parts of cyberinfrastructure.


Figure 1.

The Challenge of Cyberinfrastructure

    Deploying a coordinated set of components and capabilities to create an

    effective and useful cyberinfrastructure remains a significant challenge. At its

    core, the challenge of cyberinfrastructure is to enable diverse and disparate

    components, services, and technologies to work together as if they were in

    the same location. Moreover, these pieces are operated and supported by

    many individuals across multiple organizations. As the NSF report articulated,

    “Cyberinfrastructure integrates hardware for computing, data and

    networks, digitally-enabled sensors, observatories and experimental

    facilities, and an interoperable suite of software and middleware

    services and tools.”

For example, a university researcher may need to access, process, and

    display a large data set for a project she is working on. Cyberinfrastructure

    ought to provide the sameor greatercapability as a comprehensive

    supercomputing facility at the researcher’s own institution. Ideally, because

    cyberinfrastructure is shared among many users, it will provide this capability

    more cost-effectively and more flexibly.


    However, the distributed world of cyberinfrastructure adds complexity in control, access, and security. How do you know that the person requesting use of a resource has permission to do so? How do you know that the person calling you with the array of modern collaboration tools is someone with whom you want to communicate? How do you give a new participant access to project resources managed by multiple institutions? What if the individual is temporarily located at another institution or plays multiple roles?

Thus, while many of the fundamental components of cyberinfrastructure

    such as computing centers, high-performance networks, impressive visualization facilities exist todaya great deal of work remains to enable

    these pieces to work together, and to enable researchers, teachers, students, musicians, and doctors to use them effectively.

Meeting the Cyberinfrastructure Challenge

    The Internet2 community has adopted a “systems approach” in supporting members in meeting the challenge of cyberinfrastructure. This means the different components of cyberinfrastructure are considered as a set of technologies, services, and capabilities that need to work together. For example, the deployment and development of network infrastructure needs to leverage middleware services, and both networks and middleware need to be informed by the requirements of applications.

    Similarly, since cyberinfrastructure spans and depends upon the interaction among many different organizations, the Internet2 community works to foster collaboration and coordination across those organizations. This includes not just the direct work and ongoing collaboration the Internet2 organization encourages among individual member organizations, such as campuses and regional networks, but extends more broadly through outreach to partnerships, collaborative development efforts, and network connections with other national networking organizations in the United States, such as ESnet, and with international partner organizations in other countries, such as GÉANT in Europe.

    The Internet2 organization’s implementation of this systems approach is guided by five basic principles. These are:

Fostering member-led development of new technologies

    Activities in this area bring together members of the community to spur development of technologies that do not already exist, or are in the initial stage of development. Examples include middleware architectures and software such as Shibboleth, end-to-end performance technologies such as perfSONAR, and dynamic circuit networking control plane technologies and software.

Operating advanced services where scale or scope are beyond a

single institution

    These are efforts that provide the Internet2 community with central services


    that are not commercially available, and which are not feasible for a single member to provide. Examples include the Internet2 Network, the Internet2 Observatory, and the InCommon Federation.

Deploying and encouraging developmental services

    These are pre-production capabilities that may leverage existing services available to the Internet2 community. Examples currently include the Internet2 Dynamic Circuit Network, the perfSONAR network performance measurement infrastructure, and the Phoebus research infrastructure.

Supporting community collaboration in deploying and using


    Activities in this area include hosting and supporting workshops, developing online information materials, and community-driven working groups. Example workshops focusing on technology deployment cover IPv6, multicast, network performance, dynamic provisioning of circuits, access management, bridging identity management, and security. User communities targeted for deployment of such technologies include K20, the Arts & Humanities, the health sciences, the LHC community, and other scientific communities.

Partnering and coordinating with other organizations engaged in


    For those aspects of cyberinfrastructure in which it is not directly involved, and to extend the reach and ensure coordination of its activities, the Internet2 community partners with other organizations. Examples include the TeraGrid and Open Science Grid for distributed computing resources, DANTE, RNP, and ESnet for network performance measurement and dynamic

    provisioning of circuits, and EDUCAUSE for identity and access management development and outreach.


    Cyberinfrastructure encompasses a comprehensive and integrated view of information technologies, and the skills required to deploy, maintain, and use them. These technologies are increasingly critical to the research and education community which Internet2 and its members serve. Developing and implementing effective cyberinfrastructure requires taking a holistic view, as well as working and coordinating with many other organizations. The Internet2 community supports meeting the challenge of cyberinfrastructure by:

    ? Fostering member-led development of new technologies

    ? Providing advanced services where scale or scope are beyond a single


    ? Deploying and encouraging developmental services

    ? Supporting community collaboration in deploying and using


    ? Partnering and coordinating with other organizations engaged in



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