Origins & Evolution

The Eastern Regional Network (ERN) started with a small group of people representing universities (Rutgers, Syracuse, University of Maine – Orono), research and education networks (KINBER, OSHEAN, NYSERNet), and the MGHPCC, who were interested in simplifying multi-campus collaborations and partnerships that advance the frontiers of research, pedagogy, and innovation. Since its inception, interest in the ERN has grown both within and outside the Northeast, with membership currently representing 22 colleges and universities, 10 research and education networks, the MGPHCC, the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, Internet2, and Google Cloud all contributing in different ways.

First Steps
When the ERN was formed, it launched two infrastructure-centric projects intended to both develop and test new capabilities and to strengthen working relationships among cyberinfrastructure providers in the region. Both were “coalition of the willing” initiatives where the participating organizations contributed time and equipment.

The first project tested a method for launching high performance computing jobs to remote campus clusters and to commercial cloud services. The prototype implementation illustrated in Figure 1 enabled launching of jobs across federated clusters at 9 cooperating sites (Rutgers University, University of New Hampshire, NJIT, University of Maine, Syracuse University, Lafayette College, Penn State, NJEdge, and the MGHPCC) plus the Google Cloud Platform. It is now being put into production use for a cooperative effort between Rutgers and Penn State. 

The second project formed the Northeast perfSONAR Mesh, which remains active and available to help identify and diagnose network throughput and delay issues. The mesh currently includes 26 nodes and 17 sites spanning 9 states.

Initial Proof-of-Concept ERN Network Topology
June 2019 Workshop

To continue the momentum, members of the ERN community gathered in June of 2019 to identify the next set of opportunities. Attendance included 53 participants from 14 academic institutions, 6 network providers, the MGHPCC, and the Northeast Big Data Hub. Topics discussed included Science and Education Drivers, Resource Sharing, Security, Education and Training, Network Infrastructure, Governance, and Computational and Data Abstractions for Accelerating Discovery.

From the notes and conclusions captured in the meeting summary, it was clear that the highest value next step would be to form projects that focus on selected research and education domains. These projects will develop the ERN’s ability to engage productively with the research and education community. If successful, they will lead to measurable outcomes for specific domains while at the same time serving as learning experiences that will inform similar initiatives in other domains. Moreover, we believe the results and outcomes from these projects will be of value to other regions.

Next Steps

While we seek funding to launch the domain-specific projects, the ERN continues to explore other possibilities for infrastructure collaboration, including:

  • Regional technology testbeds
  • A regional data DMZ
  • Uniform interfaces to campus and national resources
  • Resource bartering systems
  • Common security models
  • Systematic regional engagement with national initiatives such as
    • National Research Platform
    • Open Storage Network
    • Big Data Hubs
    • Open Science Grid
    • National resources such as XSEDE, Cloudlab, Fabric, Chamelion
    • Commercial cloud providers
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