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Marshall University Cyber Infrastructure Plan

Introduction

What is Cyber Infrastructure?

Cyber infrastructure is the connected cyber resources of networks, storage, computing and research communities that provide a basis to support scientific research and innovation in science, engineering and other fields.

Why is it needed for scientific research?

Scientific inquiry, innovation, and advance discovery requires improved cyber infrastructure capabilities, large data sets, high performance processing and faster transfer rates which are essential components of any modern research initiative. Furthermore, increased collaboration between researchers and students lead to more dependencies or reliability and performance of institutions’ cyber infrastructure.

Vision

Marshall University IT department defined the following IT Research strategic thrusts in its latest strategic plan to provide a robust infrastructure and support for a growing research population:

  • Expand data storage and management for on-campus and hosted services.
  • Expand base support for central on-campus and hosted HPC Clusters
  • Continue coordinating development of faculty skills in the use of XSEDE and other NSF and hosted services.
  • Provide skilled technical support for research computing infrastructure, operating systems and basic applications.
  • Provide scalable, elastic and cost-effective virtual private cloud platform and infrastructure to service research faculty in provisioning new virtual machines in timely manner.
  • Provide technical and administrative assistance in preparation of grants with computing components including data management plans and hardware specification and coordination with HPC
  • hardware suppliers and vendors.
  • Selective on-premise deployment to only the services and software that are good fit for local hosting and extend other services to more cost effective locations (i.e. BigData Analytics locally,
  • REDCap remotely or local HPC as a staging resource before going to XSEDE).
  • Offer centralized and secure authentication platform for all research computer services and facilities in addition to support federated identity for visiting researchers (i.e. Shibboleth and InCommon).
  • Continue to provide assistance in promoting cyber-infrastructure initiatives like XSEDE and NSF funded projects like CI-Train.
  • Develop closer partnerships with other institutions’ IT research computing teams and coordinate hosting meetings and workshops.

Strategic Goals

Collaborative framework

Cyber infrastructure at Marshall University is a collaborative effort of teams from different departments on campus. Marshall University Research Corporation (MURC), faculty and researchers from academic departments and division of Information Technology are working together in a collaborative manner to support Cyber Infrastructure initiatives. The multidisciplinary and diversity of backgrounds, skill sets and perspectives provide strengths and advantages that are essential for the success of cyber infrastructure projects at Marshall University.

Solid Campus Infrastructure

Marshall University provides a Central Data Center (MU Datacenter) on its main campus in Huntington, WV in support of administrative, instructional, and research computing.  This data center is powered by a power distribution system with UPS and generator facilities for continuous operation.  The data center is cooled with a redundant and independent cooling system.  Physical security is provided by card access control and video security monitoring as well as individual locked cabinets to secure host servers and storage for independent projects.

The Data Center hosts switched gigabit and ten-gigabit server connections as part of a dedicated network secured from the campus network with Cisco firewalls.  Data transfers can be secured by VPN, SSL, and SSH.  The MUNet campus network has over 11,000 switched gigabit network connections and a ten gigabit backbone.  MUNet is connected to the commodity Internet by redundant carriers with diverse paths providing 2 Gb of commodity Internet service to the campus.  The campus also has a 1Gb Internet2 connection linked to OARnet and Internet2.

Integration with state-wide and national infrastructure

Marshall University researcher collaborating with other institutions in the state of West Virginia would benefits tremendously from high-speed data transfers across the state and between institutions. High performance computing systems requires updates to the infrastructure to add transfer nodes with adequate storage to host large dataset and optimized network connectivity for high transfer rates and secure communication with other institutions like West Virginia University campuses, West Virginia State and others. Marshall University seeks using CI-Logon and identity federation to facilitate access to research resources. Additionally, access to national research resources like XSEDE is crucial for a successful implementation of cyber infrastructure supporting scientific research.

Initiatives

Internet2

Marshall University has joined Internet2®, the advanced networking consortium. Through its membership, the university’s students, faculty and staff will have access to Internet2’s premier, ultrafast nationwide network which connects research and educational institutions in the U.S. and interconnects with international research networks worldwide. Marshall’s connection to the Internet2 Network is made possible through a partnership with OARnet, Ohio’s statewide research and education network, and Merit, Michigan’s statewide research and education network and an Internet2 Connector organization.

Internet2 is the foremost U.S. advanced networking consortium. Led by the research and education community since 1996, Internet2 promotes the missions of its members by providing both leading-edge network capabilities and unique partnership opportunities that together facilitate the development, deployment and use of revolutionary Internet technologies. By bringing research and academia together with technology leaders from industry, government and the international community, Internet2 promotes collaboration and innovation that has a fundamental impact on the future of the Internet.

Marshall University is looking at ways to expand the use of Internet 2 advanced network and leverage other services like InCommon and Net+ services and contracts and promote collaboration with other Internet2 members.

InCommon

InCommon, operated by Internet2, is the U.S. education and research identity federation, providing a common framework for trusted shared management of access to on-line resources. Through InCommon, Identity Providers can give their users single sign-on convenience and privacy protection, while online Service Providers control access to their protected resources.

Marshall University is a member of Internet2 and InCommon federation which would offer users access to shared Cyber Infrastructure resources using MUNET credentials and also accept trusted credentials of collaborators and researchers from other institutions when there is a need to use Marshall network resources.

High Performance Computing

The Data Center currently has a single HPC Cluster with over 6Terra-flops of compute services and extends these services through the use of other Internet2 connected resources such as the XSEDE.  Storage is provided by direct attached storage and enterprise class Storage Area Network (SAN) cluster.  Backup services are being done to remote site disk to disk backup system.

IPv6 Implementation

Marshall University IT strive to provide all resources possible for researchers to access any network, thus the department acquired and in the process of deploying IPv6 allocation to the entire university computing facilities in the near future. Currently, IPv6 is available on few subnets for testing and evaluation and a test webserver hosting main web pages is available for IPv6 users.

Science DMZ

Existing High Performance Computing (HPC) research projects are suffering major bottlenecks to scientific discovery, and there is an increased need for higher transfer rates between institutions in West Virginia and the national XSEDE network due to the size and nature of the data. Marshall University is considering establishing a dedicated high-speed Science DMZ network infrastructure to support research on campus and between other research institutions. Numerous research initiatives at Marshall University have future computational and data transfer needs that dramatically exceed existing infrastructure. A Science DMZ would improve network performance, increase security and create a high transfer environment that allows for the transparent access on utilization of applications including high-volume transfers up to 40Gbps. The infrastructure also links this campus wide connectivity to other West Virginia institutions, including K12 and linked to Internet2.

Software Defined Networking

Marshall University is looking closely at the benefits of network abstracting or decoupling the network traffic control from the underlying data planes using Software Defined Networking (SDN). Whether for cost reduction benefits or the leverage of new innovative applications, Marshall is considering was to deploy a prototype of multi-domain SDN network to support novel applications. As the SDN technologies mature, MU staff and researchers will become more familiar with the different aspects of SDN as it evolves.

Establishing Research Computing Council

As scientific research computing is growing and the use of cyber infrastructure is becoming wide-spread, the need for creating a collaborative team of researchers and technology specialists to oversee progression in research computing on Marshall’s campus. As a subsidiary of Information Technology Council, a research computing advisory committee needs to be established to introduce policies, promote research computing, manage resource allocations, assist in seeking and preparing grant applications and advise on plans to create a sustainable and successful research computing environment.

PerfSONAR

With the growing challenges in a managing a high performance network infrastructure, there is an increased need to measure and monitor network performance to insure performance metrics are being met and the network is functioning at optimums speed and reliability. PerfSONAR framework and toolkit provide end-to-end view of the network and provide visualization tools to assist network engineers in detecting any issues and in troubleshooting reported problems.

PerfSONAR is becoming an essential component of Cyberinfrastructure plan at Marshall university and is being evaluated for use at a larger scale.