Internet2 Accelerating Scientific Discovery Through Novel Technology

By May 4, 2020 March 10th, 2021 No Comments

The need for innovative technology and advanced network capabilities is becoming increasingly important to meet the complexity and scope of the research initiatives of today’s institutions. Internet2 aims to deliver mission-critical technology and provide a collaborative environment for research and education organizations. This networking consortium strives to solve common technology challenges and develop innovative solutions to help accelerate research discovery, advance national and global education, and improve the delivery of public services. Internet2 operates the nation’s largest and fastest, coast-to-coast research and education network and continues to be on the leading edge of what lies ahead on the technological horizon.

“Internet2 is currently working on the next generation of our infrastructure, which will bring an enhanced version of our network in collaboration with our regional partners,” shares George Loftus, Associate Vice President, Network Services at Internet2. “We are replacing a network that was installed around 2012 to keep pace with today’s technology advancements. While previous upgrades typically included newer and faster equipment, this iteration will also focus on software and architecture and access to cloud capabilities.”

Empowering a Community

The Internet2 community empowers innovators in research, academia, industry, and government to achieve their research missions and harness the collaborative power of a larger, diverse group of visionaries. “Many of Internet2’s members are research universities, but by working in partnership with the regional networks, we’re able to broaden that reach to liberal arts colleges, community colleges, state government, and K-12 libraries,” shares Loftus. “We’re able to leverage what we’ve built for the research and higher education community and extend that to a much broader community; especially through the partnerships with regional networks like Edge.”

“Internet2 creates an environment that makes the process easier for research to occur within a campus network, and the regional network like Edge,” continues Loftus. “We also support non-research entities to be able to seamlessly integrate from their organization through Edge and onto other national networks. Internet2 and Edge offer important behind-the-scenes scientific support that is essential to carrying the traffic from instruments, like supercomputing centers, back to the researchers.”

The Internet2 Network can transmit data at the rate of 100 gigabits per second and continues to build exchange points and interconnections to allow members to fulfill their missions. Internet2 enables a high level of collaboration between higher education and the technology industry, and through these partnerships, researchers, faculty, and students can access the networking applications and cloud services they need to drive research forward.

Jamie Sunderland joined Internet2 last year as the Executive Director of Service Development. Sunderland’s previous roles included working for Australia’s National Academic and Research Network (AARNet) developing products and services for the research and education community. Prior to that position, Sunderland was the Director of Information Technology (International) at Australia’s largest university, Monash University. “I have always wanted to work in the research and education sector,” says Sunderland. “Now having worked for two national research and education networks and participated in projects with a number of others, I can see that they generally serve a dual purpose. One role is to provide underlying infrastructure, which is not generally commercially available, that offers features like extra high capacity bandwidth or federated authentication to be able to share resources across different organizations. Secondly, the national research and education networks help facilitate communities of practice, nationally and internationally, to work together and essentially crowdsource technical improvements and innovation. With the increasing use of computational science in research, we need to develop new tools to help researchers use cloud services and applications more effectively.”

Exploring Cloud Computing

Internet2 is currently leading a project under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF Award #190444) and two commercial cloud providers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The “Exploring Clouds for Acceleration of Science (E-CAS)” invited proposals from researchers from multiple disciplines interested in performing cutting-edge scientific and computing studies by leveraging capabilities in cloud computing platforms. Six projects were chosen to participate in the first year-long phase of the E-CAS project and will be guided by an external advisory board including computational science experts and Internet2 representatives. Six proposals were chosen to participate based on their innovative use of newer technologies such as hardware accelerators and machine learning platforms and their need for on-demand, scalable infrastructure. “Essentially each group is in a competition to see who can create an improvement of science through an innovative use of new technology over the next year,” shares Sunderland. “Two groups will move to the second round and will be awarded up to $500,000 in cloud services from their nominated cloud provider(s) to continue their research.”

The E-CAS project strives to accelerate scientific discovery by integrating cloud services with NSF’s cyberinfrastructure resources. Internet2 looks to identify how cloud computing can enhance academic research, define best practices, uncover any gaps between cloud provider capabilities, and determine the next steps to share these emerging tools with the higher education community.

Leveraging an Internet2 Connection

Internet2 hosts several events throughout the year, allowing members and advisory groups to learn, contribute, and demonstrate their work to a national and international audience. These opportunities allow high-performance products and solutions to be showcased and give members the potential to attract new project collaborators. “We encourage institutions to get involved with the community and learn about other schools’ research initiatives and goals,” says Loftus. “The most important part of the Internet2 infrastructure is bringing together working groups to learn what technology is available and finding ways to share these resources with one another.”

With Internet2, industry members are privy to what’s happening in leading-edge research and gain a valuable look into tomorrow’s technology. “Our collaboration with regional partners like Edge makes creating technical solutions feasible,” says Loftus. “Members are meeting with Chief Information Officers, government officials, and researchers across the industry to identify the research requirements that are needed, while gathering key insights into what’s next.” Whether there’s interest in the next generation of cloud technology, big data transport, or cyber security, organizations can benefit by connecting with each other to drive new opportunities in the research and education environment.

Engaging in meaningful ways within a community can create powerful advancements and opportunities within the world of science and innovation. Faculty members, students, and researchers from across the country participate in the Internet2 community and they are able to learn from their fellow academic and research partners. “Research is no longer a few people in a lab,” says Sunderland. “Scientific discovery is now a collaborative sport involving several people with different skillsets.” Through an intricate ecosystem among countries, regions, states, institutions, and individuals, the Internet2 community shines a light on what technology lies on the horizon and how higher education can enable these solutions to bring their research to new heights.