Internet2 Supporting Members in Meeting the
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.”
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 infrastructure—such
as fiber optic cables, routers, and optical equipment—that connect the
various components, as well as the personnel that build and operate them.
Figure 1 provides an overview of the parts of cyberinfrastructure.
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 same—or greater—capability 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 today—a 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
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