While the transatlantic high-speed links develop and expand, a group of network specialists from R&E networking organizations and exchange points operators from around the world are also collaborating to ensure researchers see the end-to-end performance results their science requires not just locally but globally. To achieve this, network architects from around the globe have developed a set of global principles and technical guidelines for collaboration, as well as sharing costs and aligning investments.
The news announcement also noted that the ANA Collaboration is in compliance with the Global Network Architecture (GNA) initiative’s Reference Architecture, first released in January 2017. That document is defining a reference architecture and creating a roadmap for both national and regional research & education networks to more seamlessly support research on an end-to-end basis.
On Monday, May 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the formation of a new partnership focused on the secure analysis of large digital health and genomic data, or so-called “big data,” from the VA and other federal sources to help advance health care for Veterans and others in areas such as suicide prevention, cancer and heart disease, while also driving DOE’s next-generation supercomputing designs.
Known as the VA-DOE Big Data Science Initiative, the partnership will be based within DOE’s national laboratory system, one of the world’s top resources for supercomputing. The effort will leverage the latest DOE expertise and technologies in big data, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing to identify trends that will support the development of new treatments and preventive strategies.
DOE’s high-speed Energy Sciences Network, or ESnet, will continue to work with the VA and national labs to create a secure, high-performance connection for data transfer and seamless networking. In particular, ESnet is sharing its expertise in the Science DMZ architecture and perfSONAR network performance characterization to help improve the end-to-end flow of data, which is often the largest obstacle to moving large data sets.
At present, combined DOE/VA teams, including scientists from ANL, LANL, LLNL and ORNL, are working with ESnet, DOE’s international research network that connects all of its science laboratories and facilities. Managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ESnet is coordinating with an existing protected health information (PHI) enclave at ORNL that will comprise the initial environment for scientific analyses.
Several VA electronic health record (EHR) and MVP data assets have been moved to this secure enclave allowing investigators to access the data and compute resources while ensuring the protection of our Veterans’ data. Direct, high-speed networks between the VA and DOE facilities are expected to be established by June 2017.
The Department of Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), Indiana University, Internet2 and GÉANT today announced the release of a new version of the open-source tool perfSONAR, which stands for Performance Service Oriented Network Monitoring Architecture.
perfSONAR is a jointly developed and widely deployed test and measurement infrastructure that is used by science networks and facilities around the world to measure and ensure network performance. As research and education institutions are increasingly reliant on networking, open-source tools like perfSONAR allow network engineers to test and measure network performance, with the ability to archive data in order to pinpoint and solve service problems that may span multiple networks and international boundaries
“As research is becoming increasingly data-intensive, the ability to pinpoint and eliminate network bottlenecks is critical in order to make the most effective use of networks,” said Inder Monga, ESnet director. “This new release leverages an open-source, time-series graphing package developed by ESnet that allows for easy exploration of measurement data.”
The updates in version 4.0 include:
new scheduling software called pScheduler that supports community-developed test tools
results archiving and analysis
new interactive time-series graphs for improved human analysis
Scientists around the world are increasingly collaborating to address global issues such as clean energy, medicine and protecting the environment. Their ability to share and analyse data is essential for advancing research, and as the size of those datasets grows, the need for high-speed global network connectivity becomes ever more critical.
Collaborating Across the Atlantic
That is why research and education (R&E) networks in Europe and North America have joined forces to find new ways to help facilitate and enable scientific collaboration. Between them, the R&E networks on the two continents have now deployed links providing a total bandwidth of 740 gigabits per second (Gbps).
This record-breaking connectivity and resilience is the work of the Advanced North Atlantic (ANA) Collaboration. Started in 2013, ANA consists of six leading R&E networks: CANARIE (Canada), ESnet (USA), GÉANT (Europe), Internet2 (USA), NORDUnet (European Nordics), and SURFnet (The Netherlands).
“We’ve seen a tremendous growth in transatlantic connectivity since we have set up the first 100 Gbps R&E transatlantic link at TNC 2013,” said Erwin Bleumink, CEO of SURFnet. ”I am very pleased with the success of this international collaboration, in which SURFnet has been involved from the beginning.”
“Collaborations between research and education networks are unique and enable us as a community to address the exponentially growing data needs of science collaborations worldwide,” said Inder Monga, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s ESnet, which deployed four trans-Atlantic links comprising 340 Gbps in December 2014. “The combined capability offered to the research and education community far exceeds what any single organization can provide and moves us many steps forward towards accomplishing our vision of ‘scientific progress being completely unconstrained’.”
The University of Oregon’s Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) has produced a video showing how it has partnered with the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) to improve the network infrastructure for the center at Makerere University in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The center focuses on providing resources and training on prevention and treatment of diseases, including HIV/AIDS, producing up to 10,000 reports a month.
The previous network couldn’t support that kind of growth and the NSRC worked with the center to upgrade the infrastructure, sending donated switches, routers and wireless networking hardware.
“You realize that a network that was performing so badly, with the replacement equipment and a few tweaks here and there, the network is now performing so well,” IDI network engineer Brian Masiga says in the video. “They (the local staff) actually like the idea that someone is out there looking at their problems and they’re able to work together to solve that problem, not working as an individual, but working as a group.”
Partially funded by the National Science Foundation, Google and other organizations, the NSRC works directly with the indigenous network engineers and operators who develop and maintain the Internet infrastructure in their respective countries and regions by providing technical information, engineering assistance, training, donations of networking books, equipment and other resources. The end goal in this work is to make it easier for local scientists, engineers and educators to collaborate via the Internet with their international colleagues by helping to connect communities.
In a real-time demonstration, seven vendors of network equipment came together to successfully test the interoperability of FAUCET, an open-source SDN (software-defined networking) controller. The March 30 event was sponsored by Google, LBLnet (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s internal network) and ESnet, the U.S. Department of Energy’s high-speed international network managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The demonstration was organized to sustain momentum for SDN — an emerging technology that decouples the network control plane from the actual data which flows across the network on the data plane. By doing so, SDN introduces the concept of programmability into the network, allowing application owners and network operators to customize network software to meet their needs.
FAUCET, originally developed at REANNZ and the University of Waikato in New Zealand with the support of Google and others, was created to bring the benefits of SDN to a typical enterprise network and has been deployed in various settings.
Kate Mace, Lauren Rotman and Jason Zurawski of ESnet, along with Wendy Huntoon of KINBER and Marla Meehl of UCAR, are co-recipients of the CENIC 2017 Innovations in Networking Award for Experimental Applications. The award recognizes their work to expand the diversity of the SCinet volunteer staff and provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking.
Rotman leads ESnet’s Science Engagement Team, of which Mace and Zurawki are members. Huntoon is president and CEO of the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) and Meehl is network manager for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Colorado.
The five were recognized for their role in developing the WINS Program, or Women in IT Networking at SC, which brings a group of women technology professionals to the SC conference in November for hands-on experience in building and maintaining SCinet, the high capacity network infrastructure that supports the conference.
“This program has exemplified networking in many senses of the word – building a communications infrastructure by creating a strong diverse team and working together,” said ESnet Director Inder Monga. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with Marla and Wendy to help make networking at the SC conference more inclusive.”
Seven women attended SC16 under the auspices of WINS, which was launched in 2015 to expand the diversity of the SCinet volunteer staff and provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking. The 2016 WINS Program is part of a three-year program funded through a National Science Foundation grant and through direct funding from Department of Energy’s ESnet.
“The collaboration you have created, between the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network, and the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research, is a powerful one,” CENIC President and CEO Louis Fox wrote to the recipients. “By funding women IT professionals to participate in SCinet and attend the Supercomputing Conference you are helping to foster gender diversity in our field, a critical need.”
The WINS team will receive the award on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, during the annual CENIC conference in La Jolla, Calif. CENIC, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, operates the California Research & Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity network designed to meet the needs of over 20 million users, including the vast majority of K-20 students together with educators, researchers, and other vital public-serving institutions in California. ESnet partners with CENIC on the Pacific Research Platform and in a joint cybersecurity initiative.
At ESnet, we believe that a diverse workforce results in creative ideas and innovations. So we aim to create an inclusive working environment where people feel valued and can share their thoughts and ideas. In this series, we’ll be sharing perspectives from our staff in hopes of sharing our lessons learned and igniting conversations.
As part of ESnet’s ongoing inclusion effort, we held a workshop, “Empathy: A Building Block for Inclusiveness,” last month to discuss proactive approaches to understanding others. Mukundagiri Kandadai Ramanujam (‘Ram’ for short), Lead Trainer with Love To Share Foundation, facilitated the discussion. Michael Sinatra, a network engineer at ESnet, shares his thoughts on the workshop.
Michael Sinatra, ESnet Network Engineer
At ESnet, we deal with a lot of complex issues, which generate a lot of subtle risks and benefits. We also have a diverse staff that has different communication styles. I have found Ram’s seminars really helpful in reminding us of the benefit of understanding employees’ underlying concerns when we communicate.
In the seminar, Ram made the distinction in interpersonal communication among statements that are intellectual or state neutral facts, versus those that evaluate, judge and eventually label. By using empathy to understand the underlying needs being expressed by our coworkers, we can better convey the important things that need to be communicated in our organization without causing emotional issues to block out the underlying needs of the organization. Emotions have a place at work, but they can also cloud our ability to see important issues in our jobs.
The discussion reminded me of an example from a previous workplace. When I was 21 I had a summer job at a factory where, as one of my assignments, I had to do some work with the plant machinist, who had been told by the plant managers that he had an “attitude problem.” In the course of our work, when my colleague began grumbling about something I was doing, I, aware of this person’s alleged attitude problem, tried to be as emotionally neutral as I could to find out—on an intellectual level— why he was grumbling. It turns out that my colleague had identified a serious safety issue in what I was doing. We were able to correct the issue quickly before it caused more problems. I realized that my colleague might not have an attitude problem at all, but he might just have had some trouble communicating important issues to others, and then he would get frustrated when people didn’t take his concerns seriously.
I have tried to apply some of these concepts by being more open about my underlying motivations, especially when expressing concerns about something. At the same time, I have tried to better, and more neutrally, understand my colleagues’ concerns and motivations. Ram showed us that empathy works both ways–by better exposing our own needs and concerns, we can better communicate about the issues that are important to ESnet, and by applying the principles of empathy to our colleagues, we can better understand where they’re coming from, regardless of differences in communication style or culture.
Note: A recent article in Science Node, a free online publication, developed in collaboration with organizations in the US and Europe, looks at how scientists and IT experts can work together to better understand cyber risks.
As recent events have shown, cyber attacks can come at any time from anywhere and have widespread consequences. While many attacks target personal and financial information, the increasing data-driven nature of research means that scientific research is also dangerously vulnerable in the cyber age.
But when scientists look to cybersecurity experts to shore up these vulnerabilities, they find linguistic barriers. Words like confidentiality, availability, integrity — these terms don’t mean the same to information security professionals as they do to scientists.
“Our motivation is to help ensure the trustworthy nature of scientific computing by better understanding the project risks posed to science from cyberattacks,” says OSCRP organizer and CTSC Director Von Welch.
ESnet, Network Startup Resource Center Combine Expertise to Spread the Word
For members of the established research and education (R&E) networking community, attending conferences or sitting in on workshop sessions is the normal way to learn about the latest equipment, architecture, tools and technologies.
But for network engineers striving to establish basic R&E infrastructure where bandwidth and other resources are scarce, the University of Oregon’s Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) is often the primary information conduit. NSRC staff travel to emerging nations in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and South America where they hold intensive hands-on training courses combined with direct engineering assistance to bring institutions up to speed.
And for the second time in a year, ESnet and the NSRC have produced and released a library of short explanatory videos to help network engineers around the world gain basic knowledge, set up basic systems and drill down into areas of specific interest. In December, 15 videos detailing the Science DMZ network architecture were posted, covering the background and structure, specific designs, and techniques and technology.
“The goal is to make the information more accessible to networking staff, in the U.S. and particularly in emerging economic areas where institutions are trying to bootstrap a research network,” said ESnet Network Engineer Eli Dart, who developed the Science DMZ concept with Brent Draney of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). Both ESnet and NERSC are DOE Office of Science User Facilities managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.